The Untold Truth Of Deborah Norville

Since 1995, viewers have tuned in to watch Deborah Norville deliver a unique blend of news and entertainment as anchor of syndicated Inside Edition. According to Norville's show bio, the native of Dalton, Georgia, began her broadcasting career at Atlanta's WAGA-TV while she was still a student at the University of Georgia. Her natural abilities in front of the camera did not go unnoticed, and she was subsequently tapped to be an anchor and reporter for Chicago's WMAQ-TV.

It didn't take Norville long to move from local to national television when she was hired by the iconic Today show. However, NBC's botched handling of her arrival led her tenure on the show to be short-lived, and ultimately one of the most notorious missteps network television.

Yet Norville has managed to overcome the controversy and backlash that nearly derailed her broadcasting career at an age when it should have been taking off. Through sheer talent and tenacity, she was able to overcome the obstacles fate threw in her path, making history to become the longest-serving anchor on U.S. television. Read on to learn the untold truth of Deborah Norville. 

Deborah Norville was in and Jane Pauley was out

Deborah Norville's big break came in 1989 when she was brought onto NBC's Today show. Norville's addition to the show was controversial from the get-go, with press reports claiming she was pushing out beloved anchor Jane Pauley; in a 1989 column, Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales wrote that watching Norville sitting on the set with Pauley and co-anchor Bryant Gumbel was like "looking at a broken marriage with the homewrecker right there on the premises."

Norville told the Chicago Tribune that simply wasn't true, that Gumbel and Pauley had been "absolutely supportive" and her refusal to comment on the rumors was at the behest of NBC brass. When Pauley eventually did leave Today later that year, she said, "It has hurt to see two of my friends, Bryant and Deborah, assigned roles in this that they did not play." But the narrative was set: Norville was thought to have engineered Pauley's exit in an All About Eve-style coup, and as The Los Angeles Times put it, "she was taking the fall day after day as ratings dropped."

Just 14 months after Norville joined the show, she was gone. After Norville welcomed her first child in March 1991, Katie Couric was brought in as a temporary replacement until Norville's return, scheduled for April 29, 1991. On April 5, however, The New York Times reported NBC had changed its tune; Norville was not returning, and Couric was now her permanent replacement. 

At 31, Deborah Norville assumed her career was done

Following her brief and controversial tenure on Today, new mom Deborah Norville feared her broadcasting career was kaput. After NBC announced she wasn't coming back, The New York Times reported that she said she was not sure if she'd ever work at NBC News again. Her agent told the Times he was reluctant to define Norville's situation as a "leave," saying he "wouldn't categorize it as anything."

Looking back at that painful period in her life, Norville told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "At the age of 31 — that's how young I was — my career was over. Tie a string around it and put it up in the attic because it's done."

However, she wasn't done. Soon after, she landed a job at ABC Radio and then, in 1993, became a correspondent for CBS newsmagazine Street Stories"I knew I'd be back," she told the Hartford Courant. "A lot of people didn't. Never dreamed. But I'm back and I'm strong. Stronger than I ever was." In that interview, she defiantly fired back at those who had criticized her. "They threw the best they had at me," she said. "They took their best shots, their most powerful punches, and I'm still standing."

Inside Edition was a new era for Deborah Norville

Deborah Norville jumped ship from CBS in 1995 to pursue a new opportunity outside the realm of network television. When Inside Edition host Bill O'Reilly departed for a primetime show at Fox News, the anchor slot at the syndicated weekday show was vacant. As the Los Angeles Times reported, Norville was tapped to fill it. 

She fired back at claims that Inside Edition was nothing but tabloid television. "We are a legitimate news program," she told the Times. "People attach the label tabloid to Inside Edition and the others. That we'll all just throw anything on television. But that isn't true."

Speaking with the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Norville admitted her past difficulties led her to an epiphany. "When your career blows up in your face, you take the blinders off," she said. The business of broadcast news was changing, she explained, with stories once considered "tabloid" now seen as mainstream. "Some people say I'm throwing away my credibility," she said. "But my credibility doesn't come from being on NBC or CBS. It comes from the work I do. If I continue to do honest, fair work, which is not prejudicial, where's the risk?"

Deborah Norville has a sense of humor about her job

In 2006, Deborah Norville spoke with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer about her move to Inside Edition. By that time, she'd been with the show for just over a decade. She joked about the show's tabloid-style stories, revealing she'd learned not to take herself too seriously. "When Katie Holmes had the baby, I jokingly said to my producer, 'Would it be inappropriate for my lead to be, "Our long national nightmare is over?"' He said, 'No, save that for Brangelina.'"

However, Norville had become circumspect about the somewhat unique role that she and Inside Edition fulfill for television viewers. "But that's the way I feel about it," she told the newspaper. "I guess we have to tell the people, but do we have to dwell on it? The answer apparently is yes, we do." 

While she admitted she'd "never say never" if a network news gig was offered to her, she pointed out that the two key factors in getting hired for those jobs are "recognizability and likability." In her case, she joked, "they all knew who I was, and they hated me deeply... I never thought I'd work in the business again."

How to vacation like Deborah Norville

Deborah Norville has tended to travel quite a bit as a byproduct of her journalism career. As she explained in an interview with NBC News, when she does travel for some vacation down-time, she confessed that she'd much rather be lounging by the ocean than racing around on a sight-seeing extravaganza. 

Living in Manhattan, she explained, she only has to travel a few blocks to get "my fix of the beautiful painting or fine architecture or a chance to hear a world-class symphony... That's not something I hear the call for on vacation. We like to find that quiet beach and sit."

Meanwhile, don't expect to see the Inside Edition anchor wearing sweatpants and a hoodie at the airport. "I come from the school that says even if your ticket doesn't say First Class, you should dress like you belong there because you could get upgraded," she explained, outlining her philosophy of dressing up, not down, to travel. "Basically, you should always be too cute to be left behind."

Knit happens for Deborah Norville

Deborah Norville is so passionate about sewing, knitting, and needlepoint that she even has her own branded line of yarn. However, her hobby was once something she had to keep on the down-low. 

As she told Woman's Day, she recalled being told by her bosses "that being a mom was a 'career negative' for a broadcast journalist. It wasn't something the brass wanted me to talk about. You can imagine how thrilled they would have been to have me discussing knitting, sewing and crocheting."

As a result, she spent years keeping her "passion for needle arts" under wraps. However, she'd come to hit a point when she declared, "the heck with that. I'm going to be who I am, and that's someone who loves doing crafty things." For Norville, needlework is therapeutic, "my way of releasing all the insanity of life in the big city and life in general," she explained, recalling the time her husband walked in on her sitting at her sewing machine at 3 a.m. and asked what she was doing. "I said, 'Karl, we live in New York. Everyone we know has a shrink. I have a Kenmore.' He finally understood."

Deborah Norville wants to knit with the Obama sisters

Deborah Norville isn't embarrassed to admit her obsession with knitting and crocheting can sometimes spill over into her work. "You'll see some red thread on me on the show and be like, 'That's what Deb's working on,'" she joked to The Hill back in 2012.

So keen was Norville to spread her gospel of the healing power of needlework that she offered to share her knowledge of knitting with some other famous folks, and she singled a few out. "I'd love to give the Obama girls [lessons]," she said. "And probably Michelle, too. And I'll tell you why — because when you knit, you totally de-stress. I would imagine Michelle Obama has a somewhat stressful life."

Norville also suggested she could teach Ann Romney, wife of then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Referencing Romney's diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, Norville commented, "She's got it under control, but [multiple sclerosis] is a scary thing, and stress is not a good thing."

A 'routine' procedure put Deborah Norville's voice at risk

A sharp-eyed viewer of Inside Edition may have saved Deborah Norville's life. In a video shared on the show's YouTube channel, Norville explained that a viewer noticed something abnormal on the side of the anchor's neck. "It was a lump," she said. Admitting she'd "never noticed the thing," Norville had a doctor examine it. The diagnosis was "nothing, a thyroid nodule."

For a few years, it remained nothing — until it wasn't. When she had it checked out subsequently, he doctor revealed the lump was "a very localized form of cancer" that had to be surgically removed. 

In a later video, she detailed the surgery, revealing it "resulted in the removal of most of my thyroid glands." As Norville explained, the procedure was "routine" but contained an element of risk, given that "the area where the thyroid is located is also where the nerves that control your voice box" are. "And let's face it, I talk for a living, so it was very, very scary for me." Luckily, everything went well. After the surgery, she told CBS This Morningshe "sounded more or less like me. I was like, 'Thank you, Lord.'"

Deborah Norville won't kick ball change her mind

A lot of celebrities have tripped the light fantastic (and often not so fantastically) on Dancing With the Stars, a long and eclectic array ranging from Kim Kardashian to Bill Nye the Science Guy. And according to Deborarh Norville, she's long been on the show's wish list. 

"They asked me twice and twice I turned them down," Norville said in a 2006 interview that appeared in The Ledger. "I don't think it's something that someone who works in what's supposed to be the credibility business ought to be doing." The real crime, she implied, was that viewers wouldn't get to watch her strut her stuff as she foxtrotted and quickstepped her way to the mirrorball trophy. As she declared, "I'm a [expletive deleted] good dancer."

The way Norville saw it, she worried that anyone would take her seriously as a journalist if they saw her, say, perform the merengue with DWTS veteran and The Bachelor Ukraine alum Maksim Chmerkovskiy. Turning down Dancing With the Stars, she admitted, was "saying no to potentially millions of extra viewers, but you have to sleep with yourself at night."

Why Deborah Norville landed behind bars

Count Deborah Norville among the celebrities to have spent time in the slammer. However, the circumstances involved in Norville going to jail were not typical. 

Back in 2000, she spent a week incarcerated in a North Carolina jail — not because she committed a crime, but for an Inside Edition segment. She recalled that experience being her most memorable as a journalist, and possibly her most important. "There was nothing happening while these women were behind bars that was going to help them make better decisions going forward," she said of her jail experience, admitting she saw "not a darn thing" being done to lower the rate of incarceration. "They'll be there for a period of time, the charges will get thrown out, and they'll never get processed through the system," she said of the women she encountered. "But what they really needed were job training skills. What they really needed was help getting off drugs. What they really needed were decision-making classes that would enable them to not choose the wrong path repeatedly."

Spending a week in jail, she admitted, was "physically harder than I thought, but emotionally more fulfilling than I ever expected."

Deborah Norville celebrated a major career milestone

March 2020 marked a special occasion for Deborah Norville: It was her 25th anniversary as anchor of Inside Edition. When she took the job back in 1995, many expressed skepticism about what was viewed as her descent into trashy tabloid TV after her plunge from the lofty heights of Today. Evidently, this career shift has worked out, and her days of morning TV drama are long behind her. "I'm feeling happy and good with this lovely celebration," Norville told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution at the time.

After a quarter-century, she had clearly become comfortable with Inside Edition and where it fits in the television firmament. "We don't pretend we're telling you everything that happened," she explained. "We assume you are generally aware. We give you a few detailed insights or sidebars. We provide stuff that is new and different and fun and uplifting. A big part of the secret sauce is that final story. We want you to feel better about your day."

The show had also given her the kind of work-life balance that's tough to come by in the world of network news. "I could drop the kids off at school," she marveled. "I couldn't pick them up but I could get home, cook dinner and put them to bed."

Deborah Norville's career has been good to her wallet

Deborah Norville's career has certainly experienced its ups and downs over the years, but she's made some pretty solid cash along the way. Back when she parted ways with Today in 1991, a New York Times report cited her annual salary as being somewhere in the $1 million range. Since then, Norville has apparently done quite well for herself, with the Celebrity Net Worth site estimating her Inside Edition salary to be $4 million per year. In addition, the site estimates that Norville's total net worth is $18 million. 

In any case, it's a safe bet that money probably isn't an issue in Norville's household, given that her husband, Karl Wellner, appears to be pretty darned wealthy in his own right. In a 2009 interview with Elite Traveler, Wellner discussed his role as president and CEO of Papamarkou Wellner Asset Management Inc. described as a "highly regarded wealth management firm for the elite." 

As Wellner explained, the firm represents about 120 clients, advising them on "several billion dollars of assets." And while Wellner's net worth doesn't appear to be public knowledge, helping rich people turn their money into even more money has typically been a vocation that pays pretty well.