How CBS Anchor Norah O'Donnell Multi-tasks Working from Home and Being a Mom

"I was on a call with someone from the White House and my daughter was shouting at me that the printer doesn't work!" she tells PEOPLE

Norah O’Donnell
Photo: Courtesy Norah O’Donnell

While anchoring the CBS Evening News and reporting on the global pandemic COVID-19, Norah O’Donnell has a particular advantage.

“I grew up in a family of scientists and my father is an infectious disease doctor,” says O’Donnell, a 45-year-old mom of three. “Viruses are something that’s been discussed at the dinner table since I was a young child.”

While reporting on what she describes as “the biggest story of our lives,” O’Donnell has interviewed epidemiologists, ICU nurses and E.R. doctors on the front lines, including Dr. Anthony Fauci and U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, to name a few. And sometimes she calls Dad for guidance.

“My dad is in his seventies and still working,” she explains. “I’m constantly asking him what he thinks are the best treatment options, what are the keys to social distancing. My dad is sort of like our doctor on call.”

“He has no bias, meaning he doesn’t work for anybody who’s in the middle of this. If there’s a company that’s putting forward a particular antiviral or antibody test, my dad’s an independent fact check to say something that could really work,” she adds.

According to the Nielsen ratings, CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell garnered 7,437 million views last week,(with 1,572 million adults in the 25-54 age range), making her the most-watched woman in national TV news.

The journalist shares 12-year-old twins Grace and Henry and 11-year-old daughter Riley with her husband, chef and restaurant owner Geoff Tracy. And like many moms working from home while social distancing, O’Donnell is juggling child care while fielding work calls before heading into the studio for her nightly newscast.

CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell
CBS News

“Right now, I’m a work-at-home mom and the managing editor of the CBS Evening News,” she says. “I was on a call with someone from the White House and my daughter was shouting at me that the printer doesn’t work! Lots of times, I’m on a conference call and cooking breakfast for the kids at the same time. Luckily they have the ‘stop video’ feature on Zoom.”

With jam-packed days, she also tries to find balance where she can.

“It’s my job to know every single detail. But early on, I was waking up and catching CNBC and then watching cable. I’ve stopped doing that because I realized I was experiencing a lot of anxiety as a result of hearing even single detail of the story.”

Now, after a morning conference calls and reading all the newspapers, she focuses on the advice of the mental health experts she and her colleagues interview on air, carving out a bit of personal time to help manage stress.

“At the top of that list for me is exercise,” she says. “I try and work out three days a week via FaceTime with my trainer in New York, Kira Stokes. Every other day I go out for an hour long walk in my neighborhood just to get outside. Lately, I’ve been jumping on my kids’ trampoline! It turns out it’s been a lifesaver for all of us.”

And while she hasn’t had much down time, she is catching up on one Netflix series.

“I’m really one of those people who has FOMO. Fear of missing out — and major jealousy of people who are watching Netflix!” she says with a laugh. “But just last week, I was so overwhelmed by some of the news, I realized it was time to disconnect and watch some Netflix. Luckily, season 3 of Ozark was just launched so I decided to dive in. We all need some escapism during the time.”

In addition to also covering the economic fallout and the struggles many are facing, she also makes a point to include stories of hope in many of her broadcasts.

“We want to be empathetic and cover the true pain that’s happening across America,” she says. “We also want to show the stories of healthcare workers and heroes who remind us that we are all in this together.”

“Part of the reason it has been so hard for me to disconnect is because I’ve never felt such an important responsibility,” she says. “As broadcast journalists, we play a public service role. Today, we also play a public health role. I took this job because I really did want to help further understand. This is that time.”

Related Articles