Counting Her Blessings
Perhaps because she has lived through public dissections of her own career
choices, she's quick to defend Katie Couric, the subject of negative media
scrutiny since taking over the CBS Evening News and failing to lift
the show out of third place. "I think it's unfair to be put under the
microscope the way she has, and I feel bad for her," Vieira says.
"Things don't turn around overnight." Vieira says she knows how hard it
is to move to a new job and get your feet planted. "There's a learning
curve, and an acceptance curve, with everything. They hype and hype, then at
the first sign of slippage, people start to write stories."
When I ask Vieira what she'd do if the time ever came when she wasn't a
television journalist, she answers without hesitation, "I'd be a pediatric
clown in the children's ward of a hospital." She did a segment about the
profession on Today this year. "First, I observed the clowns in a
hospital, and I thought, These kids are so sick, how do they do this? And one
of the clowns said, ‘When you put on the makeup, you're the clown doctor.'"
For the segment, Meredith, in clown makeup and costume, became Dr. Ditsie (a
childhood nickname). "I forgot I was talking to sick children, and I had
the best time. It felt so good. I made a difference and I got something out of
What Vieira brings to the table — the one in her gracious suburban home near
the Hudson River that's shared by kids and husband, dog Jasper, and two cats,
Felipe and Sweet Pea — are qualities that were well and wisely loved into being
around her parents' table in East Providence, RI. Her mother, a homemaker, and
her father, a doctor, were both first-generation Portuguese Americans. Vieira's
three brothers — 10 years, 5 years, and 14 months older than she — probably
helped determine her description of herself as "more of a tomboy than the
The hardest thing about the upcoming holidays, she says, is not having her
parents at the table to share them. Her dad died in 1987, at 82, and her mom in
2004, at 90. Vieira lights up talking about them. "I was raised Catholic,
but my mom was a real feminist who didn't like the male-dominated hierarchy of
the church," Vieira says proudly. "She was tough about it. She went to
church and was a believer, but she didn't like the trappings."