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Rodriguez Off to an ‘Early’ Start

Jan 6, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Maggie Rodriguez has worked her way up in the television news business from associate producer to the newest co-anchor of “The Early Show” and contributor to “The CBS Evening News With Katie Couric.”
She was discovered by CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus co-anchoring weeknights at CBS-owned WFOR-TV in her hometown of Miami. She started her career at Univision-owned WLTV-TV there before taking a job in 1994 as midday and magazine anchor at KABC-TV in Los Angeles, returning to Miami in 2000.
During her six years at WFOR, she made her award-winning mark as a reporter and anchor on stories ranging from hurricanes to the transfer of power from ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro to his brother Raul.
Ms. Rodriguez recently talked with TelevisionWeek National Editor Michele Greppi about her new life in New York and what she brings to her new job after six months as co-anchor of “The Saturday Early Show.”
TelevisionWeek: Have you settled in up here? Is it feeling like home?
Ms. Rodriguez: It did finally all come together a week and a half ago. My husband finally transferred to New York. He got a great promotion here. My daughter’s with me. My husband is with me. It officially feels like home.
TVWeek: Does your husband like New York?
Ms. Rodriguez: Oh, yeah. He’s doing great. He loves his job. And our little 2-year-old daughter Daniella, surprisingly enough, has been the one who’s adjusted the best of all of us. She is thriving in the madness.
TVWeek: Are you living in the city?
Ms. Rodriguez: Yes, 10 blocks from the office. Everybody says we’ll probably get tired of it and move to the suburbs, but right now, we’re coming from Miami. We did the suburbs thing, so if we’re going to live in New York, we’re going to live in New York.
TVWeek: What is the role of a morning show in your life?
Ms. Rodriguez: Up until now I have been a viewer, so I can tell you that for me, it should be a show that gets me ready for my day by telling me what I need to know, what is the important news of the day, first and foremost—which is why we put that first in our show—and second, give me segments that are memorable, that I’ll remember for some reason. Like the dog segment today. That is going to stay with me and it’s going to warm my heart and help me value my loved ones even more. I think the difference now is that it’s just more timely. It’s fresher facts. It’s fresher news stories. On a big story, it’s the important guest. We’re getting the good guests now. We’re keeping the stories fresh, not the same old stories in the same old way.
TVWeek: Do you have a memory of a morning show moment that for you comes close to being perfect, as a viewer or as a participant?
Ms. Rodriguez: No, not a specific one. I just know that if it’s 6 p.m. and I’m still talking about a segment I saw on the morning show, then that was a good segment, and whatever it was about that segment we need to duplicate, a moment, a character, a vital piece of information. You’ve got to keep it fresh. For me that’s the big word. If it feels old and stale, I’m not going to watch it. I think that’s what ‘The Early Show’ is now and is going to be even more so: fresh.
TVWeek: What do you, as Maggie Rodriguez, bring to “The Early Show” mix that can help take it to the next level?
Ms. Rodriguez: I think that’s for the viewer to decide. I don’t know how to answer that and still be humble, but I will tell you that I feel that everything I’ve ever done has prepared me for this role. It’s tailor-made for me because I’ve been reporting and anchoring hard news for 15 years. I have that and that’s crucial. I think that’s the foundation. That’s what people expect from you. You‘ve got to have the knowledge, you’ve got to be prepared. You’ve got to know the news. But on top of that, my life experience as a mother, as a wife and everything that came before that, just as a human being, I can use in this role as well. I can tap into my natural curiosity for things. It’s the perfect job, because it allows me to use every facet of my personality and of my professional experience.
TVWeek: Is there a ritual you will perform in hopes that the Maggie-Harry-Julie-Russ-Dave version of “The Early Show” beats the historic odds— and they are daunting, if you think about it—against morning shows on CBS?
Ms. Rodriguez: They are daunting, but I don’t subscribe to that. To me that’s a loser mentality; to think that you’re going into something that’s never succeeded before and therefore you will fail is setting yourself up for failure. I go in and say, “Why not us? Why not now?” I think it’s proven that everybody is hungry for something fresh and new, and if people have something to watch that’s different from what they’re used to watching, they will watch it. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t welcome fresh change in their lives. So why will this one succeed where others haven’t? I don’t know. Because it will be good? Because it will be watchable? Because it will be a fresh alternative? Because why not? We’re more competitive than ever with the other morning programs. We’re getting the exclusives. From what I’ve gotten to know about my co-anchors, we’re just a really good blend, personality-wise. We get along well, and people can see that. You can’t fake that. They don’t want to watch a team that doesn’t get along.
TVWeek: What’s your favorite Shelley Ross story so far?
Ms. Rodriguez: I can give you a million adjectives to describe her.
TVWeek: So what’s your favorite Shelley Ross adjective?
Ms. Rodriguez: Bundle of energy. Ball of fire. Hungry. She’s infectious, I swear to God. You’re around her and she so wants it, she is so willing to do whatever it takes, work however many hours are needed, constantly brainstorm. I love that. Again, you have to have a winner mentality to win. You can’t climb out of third place by slacking. You’ve got to work hard, and that’s what we’re all willing to do. That’s not to imply that anyone wasn’t before, it’s just to say that Shelley is the anti-slacker. She is a go-getter. She will not settle for anything and I won’t settle for anything but the best we can give viewers, because they’re going to watch whatever is the best show.
TVWeek: What’s your favorite New York story since you arrived from Miami?
Ms. Rodriguez: I’ve had several New York moments. I love walking down from my closet-sized apartment to discover the reason why I chose to live in a small apartment, which is that I am in the middle of everything, I am in the center of the universe, with life screaming at me, all around me. It’s invigorating. I cannot get enough of it. It takes some getting used to. I was on the subway one day going downtown and I always took the same train, but I thought, “I think this train goes there as well,” so I get on a different one and I’m waiting for my stop and waiting for my stop and waiting for my stop. I decided to just get off and walk. I thought, “How far can I be?” I asked this guy where Broadway is. He said, “Do you mean in Manhattan? You’re in Brooklyn.”

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