Dateline's Keith Morrison on His 'Weird' Fame, Huge Family and 50 Years in the Business

"All these years later, this job, it's the love of my life," Keith Morrison tells PEOPLE in this week's issue

In this week's issue of PEOPLE, the Dateline correspondent and award-winning journalist opens up about his successful broadcast career, becoming the most recognizable voice in true crime, his unexpected celebrity fanbase, and his loving, growing family.

"I had no expectation this would become what it has,” Morrison, 73, says of NBC Dateline’s success. “All these years later, this job, it’s the love of my life.”

Born in Lloydminster, Canada, to his mother Margaret, a music teacher, and father Ernest, a preacher, Morrison was one of five children.

“I officiated at a funeral for a farmer and I realized I’m just not up to this,” he says. “It was a seminal moment in my life when I knew: Okay, this is not what I should be doing for a living.” At 19, he flunked out of college and bounced from job to job until one day, “I was sitting on the couch watching the local news. I thought, ‘I can do that.’ ”

  • For more from Keith Morrison, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

That, he did. For the next 25 years or so, Morrison worked at different television stations in Canada and Los Angeles before finding a permanent home at NBC in 1995.

“You’d be amazed how often I find myself musing on stories I may have done 25 years ago,” says Morrison, who has covered every major crime case since he joined the network, including Casey Anthony and the Robert Durst trials.

Though he reports on a number of heart-wrenching stories involving the darkest aspects of life, Morrison’s priorities have always been respect and dignity.

keith morrison

Not surprisingly, Morrison — who has often felt grief and anger for victims and the injustice he’s witnessed — says remaining detached is not an option for him.

“It’s both the blessing and the curse of this job,” he admits. “It might be a failing on my part as a journalist and if it is, I’ll live with it.”

That compassion remains one of the biggest reasons he’s beloved by so many.

“It’s sweet and lovely and overwhelming ... and undeserved,” says Morrison of his unexpected fanbase.

And through it all, there's one thing that has remained unequivocally everlasting: family.

keith morrison and matthew perry
Keith Morrison and stepson Matthew Perry. Courtesy Keith Morrison

“There’s no describing what a wonder it is,” Morrison says of his wife of 39 years, Suzanne Perry, 72, and six children: stepson and actor Matthew Perry, 51, as well as his son from a previous marriage, Michael, 46, and his and Suzanne’s four kids, Caitlin, 39, Emily, 35, Will, 34, and Madeline, 31. They also share four grandchildren. “When we’re all together, it’s just a brew that you could not mix no matter how hard you tried if you did it by hand.”

Now, on the brink of his 29th season with Dateline, Morrison says he’s not planning on going elsewhere. “I’ll just go on as long as I can because, why not?” he declares. “I’m extremely lucky.”

Dateline airs Mondays and Fridays at 10 p.m. ET, as well as Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET, on NBC.

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