Mornings With Mom

As co-anchor of CNN’s “American Morning,” which airs weekdays from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., Kiran Chetry brings more energy to the morning news than most of her viewers hope to get out of their first cup of coffee. A longtime “news junkie,” Chetry’s passion for reporting has taken her from her first news job at a local news channel in Rockville, Maryland to the Fox News Channel, where she anchored “Fox & Friends First” and “Fox & Friends Weekend” before joining CNN in 2007. On “American Morning,” she delves into complex issues with intelligence, compassion, and her signature smile. But before you think her job, which requires her to wake at 2:30 a.m. each day, saps all of her energy, just watch her with her two adorable children, Maya and Christopher, to whom she returns home after finishing up on air. Just as skillfully and enthusiastically as she co-anchors the news, Chetry co-anchors her family with her husband Chris Knowles, the weekend meteorologist for the news channel PIX-11.

How did you become interested in broadcast
journalism—is it something that you always wanted to do?

Yes. I still remember
getting a boom box from my mom and dad one year, and I used to make my
own little mini-newscasts. I’ve just always loved the whole idea of it.
In the 7th and 8th grades, they were doing a pilot program in my school
district, and one of the things they introduced was a T.V. production
class. We had our own little studios and edit days. We got visits from a
lot of professionals— Willard Scott did his weather forecast one day
from our set. I was lucky to get the opportunity to try it out and see
what it was all about. When I applied to colleges, I looked for ones
that specialized in T.V. production and broadcast journalism. I wound up
getting my degree at the University of Maryland in broadcast

I read that in your work for CNN, you really
enjoy being the first person to break the news to your viewers in the
morning. What is that like for you?

My co-anchor John Roberts
and I both love the fact that we get to start fresh every morning while
everyone is still asleep. We go on the record at 6 a.m.—one of the first
news shows on the air. We take pride in the fact that the issues we
look at and highlight to prepare for the show drive the coverage for the
rest of the day. There is a certain type of person that likes that type
of intensity. We joke around that we were both the type that stayed up
all night writing term papers in college because we liked being down to
the wire.

How do you prepare yourself for the show each

night before the show, John and I receive an email with the final guest
list and topics for the next day. Before I go to bed, I read through
all the materials, do some research, and touch base with the evening
producers to discuss a particular focus or direction for each topic. I
also watch a lot of the evening news shows to catch up on any late
developing stories I may have missed during the day. Unfortunately, I
don’t go to bed as early as I should. I tell myself that I will
absolutely close my eyes by 9:15, but it doesn’t always work out that
way. I wake up at 2:30 a.m., and I’m in the car on the way into the
studio at around 3. I get in, tear through all of the newspapers, read
all of the research, see the things that broke overnight
internationally, and then boom, three hours later we’re on the air. It
is very exhilarating.

What would you say is the most
interesting story that you’ve covered?

Definitely the 2008
election. John and I were on the air for six hours straight on the night
of the election. It was so exciting. At the very end it became clear
that Barack Obama was beating John McCain, but for the entire primary
nobody knew. It was a really fascinating thing to have a front row seat

And of course I
will never forget covering 9/11. I was assigned to cover families of
the victims. You may remember that for days and even weeks afterward,
they thought that they were going to find survivors. It was really
heartbreaking. I still have a little folder that I keep with all the
pamphlets that people were putting up. When they do the reading of the
names every year, I remember some of those names. It’s one of those
stories that is seared in the minds of all Americans, and for
journalists it’s one that we’ll always remember.

It was recently announced that Diane Sawyer is taking over the
anchor position from Charles Gibson on “World News Tonight.” Two of the
three anchors in prime time are now women. Do you think women have made a
lot of progress in journalism over the last several years?

I think we are seeing a
leveling of the playing field in some ways. The thing is, I always think
it does a disservice when you say “woman” or characterize someone in a
way that they can’t help. Diane Sawyer kicks butt. She’s an incredible
journalist. So is Charlie Gibson.

These are icons. These are people I grew up looking up
to. Diane Sawyer has that job because Diane Sawyer worked her butt off
and she deserves that job. While it’s fantastic that she’s a woman, and
that’s being recognized, I think it will be really interesting if 10
years down the road, it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female,
African- American or Asian-American, but only that you’re the best and
you’re out there. That’s a point where we all hope to be eventually.

What about your own career path? Where do you
see yourself in 10 years?

Where I am right now is exactly where I want to be,
and so I’m thrilled about that. I used to try to fast-forward life. I’d
say, “I can’t wait until I graduate school,” or “I can’t wait until I’m
done with this market and on to the next one.” Then when I had kids, I
realized they grow up so fast that I’d rather just slow everything down
and enjoy every moment. My mother always said to me when I was younger,
“Life just doesn’t move fast enough for you, does it?” She had a point.
As you get older, you think, let’s cherish this because this might be
the best.

You have two young children. Did you always
want to be a mother?

Yes, I always wanted to be a mom. My daughter Maya is 3, and my son Chris, whom I call baby Chris because my husband is also
named Chris, is 17 months.

What are their personalities like?

We laugh because my
husband, my daughter and I are all total Type A personalities. I
wouldn’t call my husband high-strung, but he’s very particular and so is
my daughter. My husband will say to her, “You can’t sit still just like
your mother,” and I say, “You can’t stand one thing being out of order,
just like your father.” She’s such a joie de vivre. She’s hilarious.
She definitely runs the family. My son is just Mr. Happy. He doesn’t
have to say a word. He has a very strong personality in his own way, but
he’s just pleased as punch.

What is it like
seeing your kids interact with each other?

They have a really fun time
together. I’m an only child and I thought it was important for my kids
to have a sibling. There are a lot of wonderful things about being an
only child, but [with siblings] I think you learn a set of skills for
dealing with and caring for other people [by having this little] team
really early on in life.

Do you think that being a mom has impacted the
way you do your job in any way?

When it comes to covering stories, I was an empathetic
person before, but when you look at it through the eyes of a parent,
everything is magnified. I also have a greater appreciation for people
who are trying to make ends meet, especially in these tough economic
times. Last week there was a study that said that seven out of 10 people
are still feeling the recession; they are not feeling that things are
turning around. As a parent, I understand what it’s like to know that
you have people depending on you— trying to make sure that your kids
have healthcare and that you keep your job and are doing the best for
your kids.

How do you juggle your career and your home life?
How do you find the energy?

Your kids energize you in a different way and your work
energizes you in a different way. You just sort of find it in your
reserves. If people asked me, what’s your trick, I would say that even
if it’s just for 90 minutes, or 60 minutes, or 45 minutes—close the door
and just try to have some time alone. For me it’s usually reading two
pages of a book and then falling asleep. The one thing about this shift
is that it’s very easy to forget about yourself. I go to bed shortly
after my kids go to bed because I need to get up early. That time in
front of the T.V. maybe, hanging out with your hubby, we don’t do that.

and your family moved to Westchester from the city about a year ago.
What do you like about living there, and what do you miss about

I get to
be in the city every day, and my husband is in the city all the time for
work, but at the same time I like the fact that there is a little bit
of a respite here. But there are things I loved about the city. We used
to take Maya to Central Park every day for her first two years. She
loved it. And I loved that you could just pop your kid in the stroller
and wander around, hop on the subway, and do whatever you want to do.
Now I’m one of those suburban minivandriving moms!

What do you hope your kids take away from watching you—not
literally on TV—but watching you balance being a mom and having a busy
professional life?

I guess I would want them to pursue what they are
passionate about because my husband and I have both done that, and I
think we’re both happy about that. There have been times when it
probably would have been easier not to. Just sort of find a place where
we are “comfortable.” But we both like to challenge ourselves. We both
grew up pretty modestly. My husband is the first one to graduate college
out of his family. My dad is an immigrant from Nepal, so I’m the first
generation from his side of the family raised in America, [though] I was
born in Nepal. My dad left his home country, got his master’s degree in
the U.S., married an American and found a way to make it here. That was
sort of passed on to me.

Sometimes it [wasn’t easy] pursuing what we wanted to do—my
parents said, “TV news?” They wanted me to be a lawyer!

Is there a specific piece of parenting advice that you remember
getting that you think is really good?

Everybody said just cherish
these moments right now because they go by so fast, and that’s so true.
My husband and I were sitting on the couch the other day and
Christopher was typing on the BlackBerry. He literally thinks he knows
how to type, like the baby does in the commercial—with his thumbs and
everything. Anyway, he is sitting there typing on the BlackBerry, and
Maya is sitting there eating popcorn, watching Dora, and my husband
turns to me and says, “We don’t have a baby anymore.” And I said, “I

You have an amazing job and a happy, healthy family. Would you
say that you “have it all”? When people say can you have it all, I
think, what is “all”?

It is a fantasy notion. You have what you have and you make the best of
it. You make it work however it works. Chris and I always claim that we
are going to do something together on a Friday night, but that is when
his work week is starting and I’m a zombie. We wind up renting a movie,
and I fall asleep after 10 minutes, and we laugh. The thing is that we
do find ways to squeeze in fun, to squeeze in family time. We do things
all together and show the kids that we are enjoying it. Life is
sacrifices. Life is working hard, earning what you have, and putting
family first—and don’t forget to have fun.