What better venue to squash purportedly fabricated rumors of professional dislike — something only high-profile women seem to be the subject of — than an awards ceremony honoring women in media?
Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell thought the 49th annual Matrix Awards put on by the NYWICI and hosted this year by “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski, the right locale, considering the two women were recently described as being fiercely at odds in an item by The New York Post. Seated side by side on stage with the other honorees and presenters, the longtime broadcast journalists whispered and frequently laughed throughout the ceremony. If that wasn’t enough, King made sure to address the matter further in presenting O’Donnell with her award.
“Everyone on the red carpet was like, ‘Is it true about you and Norah?’” King whispered, impersonating the uncomfortable questioners. “No it’s not.”
She added a quip from a CBS cameraman on the supposed drama between the women: “‘The friction is fiction.’ And the crew knows everything.”
Given the chance to address the negative narrative between her and O’Donnell, as well as her excitement over the new royal Baby Sussex (King makes no secret of her love of the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle) and the opportunity to honor her colleague, King said she “couldn’t wait to come skipping up here to do this.”
“This woman is a force of nature,” King said of O’Donnell, who in a string of shake-ups at CBS revealed that morning is to become the new managing editor and host of “CBS Evening News,” only the third woman to solo anchor a nightly news program. King, meanwhile, will become the core of “CBS This Morning,” which O’Donnell has co-hosted.
In accepting her award, O’Donnell referred to King as her “work BFF” and told the audience and the 16 college-age women who this year received an NYWICI scholarship to “find yourself a Gayle.”
“She’s the one I call for advice. She’ll say something like, ‘Norah, do you have a mirror? Go stand in front of it, slap yourself and say I’m Norah friggin’ O’Donnell.’”
In their own way, the other honorees all touched on confidence as being vital to where they had gotten in their divergent media paths.
Kate Lewis, chief content officer for Hearst, said while she was grateful for the recognition, she’d “worked really hard” to get where she is and felt she’s earned it. She also dedicated the award to her late mother, who died not long after she was promoted to the cco position last year.
Lisa Sherman, president and chief executive officer of the Ad Council, said she went from being a “classic corporate overachiever” to coming out, quitting her job, starting her own sports marketing company, shutting it down and finding herself living on unemployment in the span of a year. But it taught her about “taking a risk and following my gut.”
Jeanine Liburd, chief marketing and communications officer for Viacom network BET, quoted Snoop Dogg in her acceptance speech, saying, “I want to thank me.” Specifically, for having patience and listening to those who have given her advice over the years. She also made a pointed note that minorities are still so few in leadership positions in media, calling it “ridiculous and shameful,” adding “the power is in this room.”
Other honorees were Susan Magrino, of her eponymous public relations firm, who was presented by friend and longtime client Martha Stewart; Sally Susman, chief corporate affairs officer of Pfizer, presented by Pfizer ceo Albert Bourla; Kathy Ring, ceo of Starcom, presented by Renetta McCann, chief inclusion and experience officer of Publicis, and Padma Lakshmi, host and producer of “Top Chef,” presented by Sarah Barnett, president of entertainment networks for AMC.
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