Bob Woodruff

Bob Woodruff Headshot

Journalist

Birth Date: August 18, 1961

Age: 62 years old

Birth Place: Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Virtually an unknown commodity when he took over as co-anchor of ABC's "World News Tonight," Bob Woodruff had been a foreign correspondent for the second place nightly news program for years. Despite plenty of air time during major news stories, audiences were hard-pressed to put a name to a face when he and former "20/20" host Elizabeth Vargas began delivering the nightly news in January 2006, following the death of longtime anchor Peter Jennings from lung cancer in August 2005.

More at home abroad than in a New York studio, Woodruff wanted to step out from behind the anchor desk to report from all corners of the globe, particularly from the Middle East and the war in Iraq. Despite the danger, he nonetheless enjoyed the challenge and the opportunity to report on stories firsthand. Unfortunately, less than a month after assuming his prestigious new post, Woodruff was seriously injured in a bombing attack in Iraq.

Born and reared in the Detroit suburb of Birmingham, MI, his father, Robert, published the Detroit Athletic Club's monthly member magazine, the DAC News, and his mother, Fran, when not raising her four sons, sold real estate in Oakland County. After attending the prestigious Cranbrook Schools in 1979, Woodruff graduated magna cum laude from Colgate University in 1983 with a bachelor's in English. He played lacrosse for four years with the Red Raiders, finishing his career as the team's all-time scoring leader with 184 points - a record that still stood when he became co-anchor at ABC.

Also notable was Woodruff meeting Lee McConaughy, whom he later married in 1988 in a self-described "shotgun wedding."

Meanwhile, Woodruff earned his law degree from the University of Michigan in 1987, where his friendships with exchange students led to an interest in China and becoming fluent in the Mandarin language. After law school, he practiced corporate law at Shearman & Sterling in New York City, before dropping his lucrative job to teach in Beijing. Little did he know his life's course was about to change.

It was during the Tiananmen Square protest in 1989 that Woodruff got his first dose of hard news journalism from which he never recovered. He was in China teaching Chinese lawyers about American law when CBS called seeking a translator for Dan Rather during his coverage of the event. After experiencing the protest and government crackdown from a journalist's perspective, Woodruff was immediately hooked. He told the network director that he couldn't go back to law after falling in love with reporting.

So in 1991, Woodruff moved his family to Redding, CA where he took a $12,000-a-year job reporting for KCPM-TV. Being part of such a small market forced Woodruff to do everything himself - from researching and reporting to filming and editing his own pieces. Most notable of his contributions was his coverage of a forest fire in 1992 that damaged over 63,000 acres and destroyed over 600 buildings.

His stay at KCPM, however, was brief. He moved on to the CBS affiliate WTVR-TV in Richmond, VA for a couple of years. In 1994, he tried unsuccessfully to break his non-compete clause so he could move to the morning anchor chair at WRIC-Channel 8 - also in Richmond. Instead, he left the station in October and went back west to KNXV-TV, the ABC affiliate in Phoenix, AZ.

In 1996, he joined ABC News at the network's Chicago bureau and soon landed an assignment covering the Justice Department - then headed by Attorney General Janet Reno - in the late 1990s. From his new perch in Washington, Woodruff was front and center for the major stories of the day - the Timothy McVeigh trial (1997), the Wen Ho Lee spy case (1999), the circus-like impeachment of President Bill Clinton (also 1999), the Elian Gonzalez debacle (2000) and the landmark Microsoft Antitrust case (also 2000).

In 1999, Woodruff covered his first war - the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia from Belgrade and Kosovo. He later went to the Hague to cover a portion of the trial of former Yugoslavian president Slobadan Milosevic at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2001.

After his stint in Yugoslavia, Woodruff began reporting extensively from all points on the globe, operating out of the London Bureau and focusing on Europe and the Middle East. He was one of the lead foreign correspondents for ABC News during the war in Afghanistan, reporting from Kabul and Kandahar on the fall of the Taliban regime. His reporting helped the network earn the Alfred I. Dupont Award and the George Foster Peabody Award for its coverage on the fallout from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Upon moving his family to New York City in 2002, Woodruff continued reporting from abroad while occasionally pursuing a major story at home. He was embedded with First Marine Division, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion in March 2003 for the invasion of Iraq and march into Baghdad. In 2004, he reported from Indonesia and Sri Lanka on the devastating tsunamis that killed nearly 200,000 people. Then in June 2005, Woodruff became the first American to report from inside North Korea since 2000, receiving unprecedented access to the closed country despite government minders following him and his crew everywhere.

Back at home, Woodruff covered the occasional fluff story - most notably the Martha Stewart and Kobe Bryant trials in 2004. He received kudos - as did many others in the previously kid-gloved media - for his reporting from the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of the coastal region in the fall of 2005, leaving thousands to beg and plead for food and water from a non-responsive federal government.

At the time, Woodruff had been alternating with Elizabeth Vargas in the anchor chair on weekends when they - along with longtime ABC newsman and morning host Charlie Gibson - were called upon to fill in for the late Peter Jennings. Then in December 2005, it was announced that Woodruff and Vargas would take over the nightly news effective January 2006. Pairing the relatively unknown Woodruff and Vargas together was considered risky by some - no one had co-anchored the evening news since the doomed Dan Rather-Connie Chung duo in the early 1990s.

That risk, however, was worth taking. At a time when all big three network news departments suffered major shakeups - the groomed Brian Williams taking over for retiring Tom Brokaw at NBC and uncertainty surrounding last place CBS when Rather left amidst controversy - ABC brass felt that having Vargas behind the New York news desk while Woodruff globetrotted would give the network a decisive edge.

Only a month into the shared tenure, ABC was thrown for another tragic loop when Woodruff and his cameraman, Doug Vogt, were seriously injured by a roadside bomb near Taji, Iraq. Woodruff suffered a skull fracture, several broken ribs, and a broken jaw. He had originally been inside a safer American Army Humvee, but switched to a light armored vehicle operated by Iraqi soldiers in order to get a feel for what they deal with. Woodruff and Vogt were both sticking out of the top hatch getting video footage when the explosion went off.

Both were airlifted to the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany and then to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD after being stabilized. While Vogt was alert and attentive, Woodruff remained heavily sedated for weeks to maximize his recovery. In early April 2006, photos of a healthy Woodruff taken at his home in Westchester, NY showed him smiling and upbeat. He was "feeling more like [himself] again," as he continued the long road to returning to his anchor duties. Full recovery was expected.

Credits

After the Blast: The Will to Survive

Self
Special
2023
50%

Positively America With Ernie Anastos

Guest
Show
2022

Rogue Trip

Executive Producer
Series
2020

Rogue Trip

Host
Series
2020

GMA3: What You Need to Know

Guest
Show
2020

WWII in Europe: Voices From the Front

Narrator
Show
2020

The Story of the Royals

Guest
Show
2018

Inside North Korea: Live From the Games

Correspondent
Show
2018

Inside North Korea

Guest
Show
2017

Military Medicine: Beyond the Battlefield

Host
Show
2016

A Bond Unbroken: The Why of Minh

Narrator
Movie
2015

The Concert for Valor

Host
Show
2014

Katie

Guest
Talk
2012

CBS This Morning

Guest
Show
2012

A Special Edition of 20/20 -- Remembrance and Renewal: 10 Years After the 9/11 Attacks

Correspondent
Show
2011

The Dr. Oz Show

Guest
Talk
2009

Earth 2100

Host
Show
2009

The Bonnie Hunt Show

Guest
Talk
2008

etalk

Guest
Show
2006

The Daily Show With Jon StewartStream

Guest
Talk
1999

The ViewStream

Guest
Talk
1997

20/20Stream

Correspondent
News
1978

Good Morning America

Guest
News
1975

News aboutBob Woodruff