Gayle King Reflects on 5 Years With ‘CBS This Morning’

Gayle King, Parade Magazine
Mike McGregor/Contour by Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 02: News anchor Gayle King is photographed for Parade Magazine on December 2, 2011 in New York City. ON EMBARGO UNTIL APRIL 01, 2012.

For many years, despite a lengthy résumé that includes three Emmys for local news coverage, Gayle King was primarily known as Oprah Winfrey’s best friend. That changed in 2012 when she became the coanchor, along with Charlie Rose and Erica Hill (followed by Norah O’Donnell), of the revamped CBS This Morning. The show veered away from the usual mix of weather, cooking, entertainment and happy-talk segments to focus more on hard news, and it’s paid off with continually rising ratings. As CBS This Morning celebrates its five-year anniversary, the perennially sunny King tells us about her adventures in the early hours.

I didn’t come looking for a job at CBS This Morning. I liked what I was doing as an editor at O, The Oprah Magazine and on my radio show. I had a normal schedule. CBS News producer Chris Licht called to say, “We want to do something different and we’d like to talk to you.”

CBS hadn’t been No. 1 in the morning since Captain Kangaroo. They had been duplicating what the other guys were doing, but this time they were starting from scratch. That was very intriguing. I’ll admit I said, “How do you do a morning show with no weather person? I want to know the temperature!” Chris said, “That’s when you go to local news.” That made sense. I don’t cook, so I was fine with no cooking segment. And I was definitely OK without having to wear a costume at Halloween! I did want to make sure it wouldn’t be fuddy-duddy. But our numbers prove that you can deliver the news and be entertaining. There’s not a day where people don’t come up and say, “I used to watch blank show; now I watch you guys because I love the chemistry and you do real news, but it’s also fun.”

It’s no secret that people wondered why I got this job, because they only knew me through my relationship with Oprah. I’ll never forget the person who stopped me one day and said, “Boy, they gave Oprah’s friend the job. How can she do the news? And then I started watching you and thought, ‘Gosh, she’s pretty good!’ Then I read that you’d been doing this for a while. No wonder she’s so good!”

I’ve been working since I was 14 years old. I think it’s good to be underestimated and then over-deliver. Donnie Wahlberg was on the show recently and pulled me aside to say, “I hope you don’t think you got this job because you are anybody’s friend. You got this job because you deserve it.” I was so touched by that. I think it was his way of saying that he’s Mark Wahlberg’s brother, so he knows what that’s like.

Norah O’Donnell, Charlie Rose, Gwyneth Paltrow and King on CBS This Morning

It was, however, very tough leaving the OWN network [where I had a talk show]. To be honest, Oprah was then getting hammered that OWN was a failure. I said to her, “If I take this job, then the headline will be ‘OWN is so bad that even her best friend bailed.’ I’m not sure if they offer it to me I would take it.” She said, “You should grab it! I know how much you love the news and there couldn’t be more of a dream job for you than this.” She was right. The hours are just dreadful—I get up at 3:30am. But I can’t complain about that because it is my dream job.

It’s always a thrill when we take the show on the road. One of my favorite pieces was when we went to the White House [last February, the day of the Super Bowl] for the only live interview that President Obama and the first lady have done.

I don’t think morning TV will ever go out of style. Even in this age of 24/7 computer information, you can go to bed, and [when you wake up] your world has changed. For many people, we are their first stop of the day, and that comes with responsibility. People like us and trust us, and when they watch us, they believe they are getting the truth. I lived in Turkey as a kid, and we didn’t have TV. When we came back to the States, we watched Walter Cronkite every night because that’s who my dad liked. My dad died when I was in college, and one of my big regrets is that he didn’t live to see me working in the studio where Cronkite worked and where his map is sometimes over my shoulder. I get goose bumps thinking about that.

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