Persistence is the Key to Your Future

Written by Ann Curry for College Outreach USA Students


ersistence. Let me tell you, it’s a great thing. In fact, if it weren’t for persistence, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Imagine dreaming of becoming a network news correspondent, when you are a shy, insecure college student. That was I. I was so insecure. In fact, I struggled for courage just to take the typing test I needed to get into my first journalism class. I barely had the courage to submit stories to the college paper. I was definitely not the most likely student to succeed.

The truth is I barely made it through college. Being from a family that couldn’t afford to pay my tuition, I worked my way through as a cashier in the student union. I was also a book store clerk and a hotel maid. Yes, I’ve scrubbed a lot of bathroom floors. And finally, after four years of struggle, guess what my first job out of college was? I was a cocktail waitress.

But that persistence thing kicked in because I really wanted to be a news reporter. I loved everything about it: the challenge of finding the right words to tell a story, and the possibility that those words might make a difference in someone’s life.

I lucked into an internship at a local television station. The year was 1978, and the station had never in its history had a woman news reporter. As an intern I did everything but wash the windows. I picked up the mail, got coffee, ran a studio camera. It wasn’t always fun, but I tried to do every job I was given the best I could... and then on my own time, I tried to learn the job I wanted.

For example, I noticed that the woman who produced the noon news was pregnant, and I offered to help her on my own time. So during my lunch hour, and after I was supposed to be done with work, I helped her print wire stories, write scripts, and book guests. When she left to have her baby, she announced she wasn’t coming back. Our boss asked me to fill in as a producer until the proper person was found. But they couldn’t find one, and I became the producer!

Ann Curry and Brad Pitt during an interview in New Orleans, LA about the reconstruction after Hurricane Katrina.

Then one day the news anchor, in a fit of anger with management, refused to go on the air. The station manager said, “just for today, Ann. will you do it?” I did, and I was horrible on the air. My eyes had that “deer in the headlights” look. But the station manager, who was desperate, asked me to go back on the next day and then the next day, until I was not only the producer but the news anchor as well.

I still really wanted to be a reporter, and when a reporting job eventually opened up I applied for it. The senior producer said, and these were his exact words, “You can’t be a reporter. Women don’t have news judgment. Besides, you aren’t strong enough to carry the camera.”

Ann Curry, Angelina Jolie and some of the children from a small village in Namibia during an interview in Namibia.

I took that as a challenge, and for the next six months, I worked to prove myself. They were some of the hardest months of my working life. Not only was I not welcome, I was assigned to twice as many stories as the men. I refused to give up. I decided that all I could do was try my best. I worked very hard. Sometimes my day would last 17 hours. Eventually I earned the respect of my senior producer, and when I left that station, I had not only been its first female reporter, I also had the biggest reporting beat in town. They also hired a woman to fill my position once I left, and eventually that station had a female news director.

Years later, after I had risen to a bigger station, that same senior producer called and said, again, these were his words, “Ann, don’t let anything I ever said stop you from your dreams. You can go as far as you want to go.”

I wanted to go as far as the networks. I moved from station to station, working long days, on every kind of story you can imagine, trying constantly to get better at reporting. In 1990, my dream finally came true. I was hired as a correspondent for NBC News.

I felt anything was possible now. There was no stopping me. But then, two weeks before my first day, I read an article in the Columbia Journalism Review. The article said all the networks had poor records as working places for women and minorities. I found out that was very true, but still wouldn’t give up. I just tried to be so good, that I couldn’t be denied opportunities. Lucky for me, at the same time the news networks were becoming more open to women and minorities.

I worked as a Chicago correspondent, and then anchored an early morning newscast that forced me to get up at 2:45 every weekday morning. After four years of that, I helped launch MSNBC, and finally, I was named news anchor of NBC’s Today. I am also a correspondent for Dateline NBC, and am often asked to anchor the weekend editions of NBC Nightly News.

It is lovely to have dreams come true. Along the way toward my dreams I have learned that it’s not the most beautiful, the most talented or the smartest people, who succeed in life, it’s the one who never quits.

Persistence. That is the key to your future. Now go show them what you can do.

Ann Curry was hired as an NBC News correspondent in August 1990, named Today news anchor in March 1997, and named co-anchor for Dateline NBC in May of 2005. She has extensive experience in national and international reporting. Ms. Curry reported live from ground zero every day in the first two weeks after 9-11.  She reported from Baghdad in the weeks leading up to the war in Iraq, and then from the USS Constellation as the war began. 

Ms. Curry has distinguished herself in humanitarian reporting. She was the first network news anchor to report from inside the tsunami zone in Southeast Asia, filing live and taped reports from Sri Lanka for Dateline, Today and NBC Nightly News. She was also the first network news anchor to report on the humanitarian refugee crisis caused by the genocide in Kosovo, filing live and taped reports from Albania and Macedonia.

Before coming to NBC, Ms. Curry was a reporter for KCBS in Los Angeles. In 1981, she was a reporter and anchor for KGW, the NBC affiliate in Portland, Oregon.  She began her broadcasting career as an intern at KTVL, in Medford Oregon, near her hometown, rising to become that station’s first female news reporter.

Ms. Curry has earned two Emmy’s, four Golden Mikes, several Associated Press Certificates of Excellence, a Gracie, and an award for Excellence in Reporting from the NAACP. She has been awarded by Americares, the Anti-Defamation League as a Woman of Achievement, and the Asian American Journalists Association, receiving its National Journalism Award in 2003. She has also won numerous awards for her charity work, primarily for breast cancer research.

Ms. Curry graduated from the University of Oregon School of Journalism.