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This Morning's Paula Zahn.

Commitment to a rigorous physical fitness regimen keeps this CBS co-host primed for-today's competitive news game.

The blonde in the coral, blazer samples some lasagna primavera left over from a cooking 'demonstration on the now-deserted set. heads to the ladies' room for a blouse change, and rushes back to the studio. Within a few minutes. she delivers a half-dozen flawless promos for tomorrow's show. "A typical day!" she says before sliding into a charcoal pinstripe jacket, having her cheeks dusted and her hair plumped, and taping a segment with actor Joe Pesci on his role in "The Public Eye."

Two hours of kaffeklatsch with her '"CBS This Morning" co-anchor Harry Smith. newsreading, and animated interviews with everyone from political pundits to nightmare experts should have worn Paula Zahn down'.

But growing up playing rough and tumble games with two athletic older brothers in her native town of Naperville, Ill., prepped Zahn to be a goget-'em reporter. "You can't have two strapping older brothers and not play," explains Zahn. "I had a choice of playing with them or being left out of everything. So I learned to pitch at a pretty young age." Little did Zahn know that all the roughhousing would instill in her a sense of competitiveness anti the ability to keep up with the grueling schedule that accompanies stardom.

After 13 years in the news business, Zahn became a household name last year when she co-hosted the Winter Olympics for two weeks live from Albertville, France. with sportscaster, Tim McCarver. Her face and flair for sports were catapulted into millions of homes a night in prime time. "She's a skiier, she loves winter sports, and her personality really comes across on TV. We'd have hired her if she'd had green hair," says Michael Pearl, coordinating producer of the Olympics. "She met the challenge perfectly."

At 36, Zahn is as fit for the news game as any speed skater or cross-country skier in the Winter Olympics. And "CBS This Morning" capitalizes on Zahn's athleticism. She has been showcased in features of her skiing down Aspen Mountain with Andy Mill, horseback riding with the-head instructor of the riding school at London's Hyde Park. and training. with gold medal-winning speed skater Bonnie Blair in Colorado Springs. Like those athletes, her ostensibly effortless performance is dependent on physical discipline. "You have to be physically and mentally strong to keep up With this schedule," she continues, "and I have to be incredibly disciplined to stay in shape.

"I'd be dead without exercise," says the 5'9", 125-pound newswoman from a leather chair in her sun-streaked office. That's why she finds 45 minutes four times a week to jog three to four miles in and around Central Park, often accompanied 'on weekdays by her daughter, Haley, 3. whom she pushes' along in a baby jogger--and on weekends by her husband. Richard Cohen. During really hectic times, they might head for the park and take her racing bike on a 35-minute spin or roller-blade..

On a typical day, Zahn's schedule includes a 4:15 Wake-up; 5 a.m. session in the makeup chair, studying the editorial pages; 7-9 a.m. broadcast; promos and a daily radio show; 10 to 11 a.m. editorial meeting to plan the next day's program; quick afternoon commutes up to twice a week to catch 'Out-of-town newsmakers; a couple. of hours of evening homework; and 10 p.m. lights out. "It's unrelenting," she remarks. "I'm the kind of person who really has to focus in on something to perform. You can't do the job I do at CBS halfway; it's all or none," says Zahn, who marks her third anniversary on the show in February. "You have to absorb a lot-of information quickly. It requires your total concentration. You have to' be at the top of your game all the time." A partial lineup of past subjects includes Boris YeltSin, Lee Iacocca, Yitzhak Rabin, Henry Kissinger, Germaine Greer, Fidel Castro, and Norman Schwarzkopf. And she is equally eager in a cooking segment to toss the fresh blueberries into the batter for fat-free muffins..

Despite the breakneck schedule she keeps, Zahn's performance has consistently scored high marks with colleagues. Barbara Waiters first met Paula Zahn in 1988. when Zahn was co-anchoring ABC's "World News This Morning," filling in for Joan Lunden on "Good Morning America." She' has remained a close friend and fan. "I remember telling Paula that 'she should leave 'Good Morning America' and take the jump to CBS." Walters recounts. "Not 'that I was against my own network. but I knew she had the intelligence, natural charm, and that wonderful smile that would make her a success. I admire her professionally and like her enormously personally." Others.agree. "She's a top broadcaster in her age group, one to watch," says Erik Sorenson, who was executive. producer of "CBS This- Morning" when Zahn joined the team. He also had worked with Zahn earlier in L.A. and San Diego. (Sorenson is currently executive producer of "The CBS Evening News" with Dan Rather.)

Although "CBS This Morning" consistently comes in third in the ratings, Zahn is quick to point out, "The ratings are up 18 percent from this time last year. Of course I think about them--I have to--but I'm not obsessed with them. I think we're putting on a very aggressive, competitive, smart morning show--and I'd like for the audience to be bigger."

Off camera, Zahn is younger looking if a bit more weathered than she appears on the air, perhaps because of her long-running romance with the outdoors. At first glance, it is tempting to dismiss Paula Zahn as yet another blonde beauty pageant contestant who leapfrogged into television news. While she was a Miss Teenage America finalist in 1973, she brought more than a decade of solid reporting/anchoring credentials to CBS. "I didn't get to sit on that aquablue couch overnight," she says.

Although she dedicates herself to the news business, she realizes there's more to life than looking good for the camera. She rounds out her life by being an accomplished musician and a loving mother and wife. Her musical interest goes way back. Although she considered journalism her major at Stephens College in Columbia, Mo., she attended on a cello scholarship, which required her to practice two hours daily and rehearse six hours weekly with the school orchestra. This, plus competing on the swim and golf teams, filled her days. "Music teaches tenacity," Zahn explains. "I've always pushed myself. I like that. I never slept," she adds, chuckling at the memory of her college days. "You're born with whatever talent you've got, and the trick is to improve on that."

Today, Zahn is accomplished enough to play a duet on the show with Yo-Yo Ma and to perform with the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall, for which she spent dozens of hours practicing. Zahn says, "It was one of the biggest thrills of my life. 1'11 never forget that first moment alone on the stage. I've never heard a sound like that before. Something magical happens: the sound comes back to you, and you're not prepared to feel it physically the way you do."

After college, Zahn landed a TV reporting job in Dallas. By age 22, she was anchoring in San Diego, which she followed with stints in Houston, Boston, and L.A., .and a string of awards, including an Emmy for coverage of an Aeromexico jet crash. Later she served as anchor for "The Health Show" and "World News This Morning" before landing her CBS job.

Zahn considers her family time vital to her happiness. She describes afternoons spent with her daughter as "sacred." She and her husband, Richard, a real estate developer, live with their cherubic daughter on New York's Upper East Side. To make their relationship work, Zahn and Cohen have coped with numerous logistics problems that only recently have been resolved. They met when Zahn was working at WNEV in Boston as a late-night reporter/anchor. Cohen didn't propose marriage until Zahn had left for a prestigious job anchoring and reporting at KCBS in L.A. Recklessly, it seemed, she quit and returned to Boston to be married: "I had no choice. You can't tell your heart to quit loving this man." Zahn then accepted an offer from ABC to co-host "The Health Show" in New York, resulting in four years of daily commuting to Boston to see Richard. Last September, he moved his offices to New York. "It makes a huge difference," Zahn says. "He's home a lot more. He gets to have breakfast with Haley and walk her to school. And when he comes home at 6:30, he can take over for me while I get in some study time." Zahn's belief in the importance of family goes back to the days when her IBM executive father and artist/ schoolteacher mother would take their four children to the grandparents' farm. They "chased cats, helped deliver calves, disturbed the bullfrogs, and climbed on Grandpa's lap on the plow."

Because of her family life and outside interests, Zahn seems to be a complete, genuine person on air. She says she sees herself less as a celebrity and more as a servant of the people. "I'm a communicator. I view myself as a person who's telling people important things--giving them information that can help them live longer, protect them from bad medical advice, make the right choices. We live in a complicated world, and our show sifts through what's going on in it," Zahn explains.

"She has a good feel about who she is, and that translates onto television," says co-anchor Harry Smith. "It's what's inside that's coming out. People know they're dealing with an honest, good person, and that helps during an interview." Says Ted Savaglio, executive producer of their show, "Paula's self-confident, self-effacing, and fun to be with. People who watch people on TV see more into them than you'd like. The genuineness comes through." "She's comfortable in her own skin," offers former "This Morning" executive producer Erik Sorenson. "She's very real. Everybody likes her."

Perhaps those run-for-your-life footraces with her brothers came in handy after all.
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Title Annotation:CBS This Morning
Author:Silver, Susan L.
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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