The Inauspicious Start To Susan Stamberg's Broadcasting Career Susan Stamberg is an NPR "founding mother" and the first woman to anchor a national nightly news program. But her radio debut was not so glamorous: a fake weather report on a local radio station.

The Inauspicious Start To Susan Stamberg's Broadcasting Career

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Time now for our serious My Big Break, stories of career triumphs big and small. Here's someone who needs no introduction.

SUSAN STAMBERG: I'm Susan Stamberg. I'm a special correspondent for National Public Radio. And my big break occurred essentially at the moment I made my radio debut. I was working at a local station in Washington, D.C. I was producing a daily program. And one day, the weather girl got sick. And the format called for a weather cast. And so there was nobody else to do it; it was up to me. And I was very nervous. What you did in those days - and you didn't have fancy technology in meteorology - you dialed W-E-6-1-2-1-2 - the weather, and you wrote down what the weather lady on the telephone said, and then you carried your notes into the studio and you gave the weather report. But I was so nervous, I forgot to call.


STAMBERG: So I go into the studio. The on-air light comes on, and I think I don't know what the weather is because I didn't make the phone call. And the studio was dark. I mean, there was a tiny little clear story window up on top, but it was covered with curtains. I couldn't even look out and see what the weather was. So I did the only thing I could think of to do.


STAMBERG: I made it up.


STAMBERG: It was February. I said it was 92 degrees out and that the barometer was - I didn't even know what that meant, barometer 110 and the wind was this, the wind was that. And then the format called for me to repeat what the weather was. And I couldn't remember what I had said because I was so nervous. So I made it up again. Now I say it's 62 degrees and the wind and the velocity is 109, and I went on and on and on. Mercifully, got off the air, and happily, our three listeners did not call, so nobody noticed that anyway. But it taught me an enormous lesson and this really - it was a big break for me. A - you never go on the air unprepared, and B - you never lie to your listeners.


STAMBERG: I think I was so petrified and so relieved when I was finished. But yeah, something in the back of my head said God, you know? This could be fun. So this was the beginning of my inauspicious broadcasting career.

RATH: NPR's Susan Stamberg. She went on to become the first woman to anchor a national nightly news program when she co-hosted NPR's All Things Considered for 14 years, and she's been inducted into the Broadcasting Hall of Fame and the Radio Hall of Fame. It all started with that weather report. You don't have to be an NPR founding mother to have a big break. Send us your story -

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