My Baby or My Job
By Judith Newman.
Elizabeth Vargas was settling into one of the most prestigious gigs on TV: co-anchor of the evening news. But then, a tragedy and a miracle changed everything. A frank conversation about life on the mommy track.
Is it possible children live here? I think to myself as I glance around Elizabeth Vargas’s immaculate, shmutz-free New York City apartment over-looking the Hudson River. What’s with the pale hues, just begging to be sullied by tiny, sticky hands? Where’s all the plastic crapola? Order reigns: There is the hum of a television from another room—I recognize the deep woof of Clifford, The Big Red Dog. The scent of garlic wafts in from the kitchen, where the cook bustles about silently. Vargas, deposed co-anchor of ABC’s World News Tonight and now co-anchor of that network’s 20/20, is dressed simply but expensively in jeans and a formfitting sweater; she is in such great shape, she looks like a woman who has given birth, well, never.
Even while nursing her gorgeous son, Samuel Wyatt, born just five weeks ago, Vargas is a model of cool, almost steely efficiency. Quietly, I begin to hope he’ll projectile-vomit on the couch. Is that so wrong? “My 3-and-a-half-year-old son, Zachary, was having an enormous meltdown moments before you came,” Vargas says cheerfully. “I was praying he would stop!”
OK, I feel a little better now. It has been a tumultuous time, professionally and personally, for the 44-year-old newswoman. In the past year, she has seen the death of an esteemed colleague (Peter Jennings) and the severe injury of another (Bob Woodruff). She was handed one of the most powerful, prestigious jobs in the news industry, and—depending on whom you ask— she either gave it up or had it taken away. And did we mention the baby? The baby, who—again, depending on whom you ask—may or may not have played a role in Vargas’s leaving the anchor desk.
The past year has also seen an unusual amount of upheaval on network- news shows. Katie takes CBS, Meredith takes Today, Charlie takes ABC’s World News Tonight, and Diane Sawyer—well, reportedly she could have taken whatever she wanted, but she decided to stay put.
And with all this change, the networks are still very much in trouble. Network-news viewership has been cut in half since 1980, with the launch of CNN and subsequent rise of the Internet as a news source. And while it’s not exactly in free fall, that explains the retooling; one prominent news anchor likened all the changes this year to “shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic.”
Baby in her arms, Vargas sat down to talk to Marie Claire about this year—the upheaval at ABC, and in her own life as well. It’s no wonder the subject she chose to cover for her fall come- back on 20/20 after maternity leave is, “Can a woman have it all?”