Natalie Jacobson is a rare TV news creature in so many ways.
For that matter, she is a bit out of the norm as a Baby Boomer whose career history is more like Baby Boomers’ parents were the last to enjoy: One employer for 35 years.
She is signing off Wednesday on the 6 p.m. newscast at WCVB-TV after 33 of those 35 years as a popular, powerful and respected anchor with the Hearst-Argyle-owned ABC affiliate in Boston.
She alternates between nostalgia for an age in which news was a more serious business and realism about the business as it is today.
“There was a time in the business, most of the time, when my talents, my skills, my passions—there was an outlet for me. Now I don’t think there is,” she said. “That’s why I’m ready to do something else. Which is fine. And lucky me that I can.”
Ms. Jacobson is not retiring— in this she is very like her Boomer counterparts. Because at age 63 she’s not ready to sit down and put her feet up— something she never does—so she’s starting a “multimedia” project aimed smack dab at that demographic.
The Insider could not let this milestone pass without lobbing a few serious and a couple of not-so-serious questions at Ms. Jacobson, who doesn’t hesitate to refuse to answer a question when she thinks it’s warranted. And, of course, with The Insider, it frequently is.
The Insider: What’s the first thing you’re going to do to celebrate your freedom?
Natalie Jacobson: I don’t feel free. That’s not one of my emotions. It’s more moving on. I really was ready for a new challenge. I have enjoyed a phenomenal career at Channel 5. I wouldn’t take back one second of it. Businesses change. There’s not as much opportunity to do some of the things I like to do. It’s time to move on. Life moves on. And lucky us that we have an opportunity at, I won’t say our age, I don’t know how old you are, but at my age…
The Insider: I’m 61.
Ms. Jacobson: Okay. I’m 63. But I look at life and say “I’m not done yet.” Neither are my friends and neighbors, so we have an opportunity to have a whole ‘nother segment of life, if we can be lucky enough to be healthy.
The Insider: Or in the case of some of us who have done a p—poor job of handling our money over the years, we can’t be done. Even if it’s working behind the counter at McDonald’s, we will die working.
Ms. Jacobson: You and everybody else we know. That will include me, because you can’t save enough for 30 years. So it’s, ’How am I going to live the rest of my life? What do I want to do?’ I know I have to be passionate about it. I also have to earn a couple of bucks.
The Insider: So is the new project discussion-oriented?Ms. Jacobson: That would be part of it. I don’t want to say too much about the format of it because there are a lot of people in this space and I just don’t want to give some stuff away yet. So the best thing I can say, and I’m sorry this is so blah, is to create a community where Baby Boomers and some younger and older who are in this stage in life come together and converse with each other. And with some input that I will bring to the site, talk about how we will live the rest of our lives—or at least how we will begin to live the rest of our lives.
The Insider: We Baby Boomers used to be in charge of the world, and still are in many ways, but why don’t we count in the media world except when it comes to the 11 o’clock news?
Ms. Jacobson: Or if it’s about arthritis or osteoporis or Depends. I don’t understand it either. I’ve had a million discussions about it with my superiors. The demographic over 50 doesn’t count. I think I’m going to be able to fill a void. We’ll go get [older consumers] online. You can say we’re not done yet, and we’re going to prove it.
The Insider: “Longtime news Madonna” a Boston Herald reporter called you last week. What does that mean? That you’re worshipped? That you have some magical power?
Ms. Jacobson: I’m Harry Potter. You didn’t get the word? I don’t know.
The Insider: Thirty-five years at the same station—and not a mom-and-pop station in a sleepy, diary-only, backwater market. Thirty-one of those years as an anchor. Who’da thunk? At what point did you first thunk (CQ PLEASE) that was the way your career might play out? How many of your friends in the business can put their resume—not their accomplishments, but their resumes—on one page?
Ms. Jacobson: Probably not too many. I can recall vividly not even being able to get an interview at Channels 4, 5 or 7, which were the only stations in town at the time, because they didn’t hire women. They just didn’t hire women. It was an all-white-men’s club. But people of my generation were the recipients of the government push to augment their employee rolls with African-Americans and women. The only reason I think that WCVB in 1972 even interviewed me or any other woman was because they felt they had to. It was the times. Now, of course, our station is mostly women.
The Insider: You were married to and had a daughter with your co-anchor of 18 years, Chet Curtis [now with New England Cable News] and were still working with him on-air after the wheels came off the marriage in 1999. How did viewers acknowledge the drama when they interacted with you on the street? Was there any lasting upside to having had to weather all this in the spotlight that had otherwise been a nice warm place to be?
Ms. Jacobson: I think they were sad. That period of time was a nightmare for me. So I guess I’ve kind of blanked out details.
The Insider: You’ve talked about the trend away from no-nonsense, unobtrusive clothing for news women. First: There has been much debate recently about whether it’s sexist to note what Katie Couric, for example, is wearing. What’s your feeling about that?
Ms. Jacobson: I’m kind of old-fashioned about that. I’ve always thought that as a news person, your clothes shouldn’t get in the way of the story. So I’ve always tried to get dressed for news rather conservatively. It’s just the way it is. Some things are what they are. We should just accept them. Men and women will always think women are more interesting to look at than men, I guess in terms of their apparel. I don’t see it as sexist. More, I think of it as the sexual look of young women today. That bothers me. That has nothing to do with news. I’m not one to make a lot out of things as being sexist or ethnic. The media, we love to do that. We love to categorize people. They’re left. They’re right. They’re conservative. They’re liberal. They’re whatever. I try to shy away from that.
The Insider: So all that being said, what was your worst cosmetic/clothing day, professionally?
Ms. Jacobson: You’ve got to be kidding me. After this discussion? That’s a very sexist question, and I refuse to answer it. It cracks me up that you’re asking me that.
Ms. Jacobson Is Natalieving
Jul 15, 2007 • Post A Comment
Natalie Jacobson is a rare TV news creature in so many ways.