Award-winning Journalist and Television Producer; Breast Cancer Survivor
Linda Ellerbee is an outspoken journalist, award-winning television documentary producer, writer and anchor, best-selling author, breast cancer survivor, mom, grandmother and one of the most sought-after speakers in America.
Ellerbee began her career 40 years ago in 1972 at the Associated Press. In 1973, she was hired to be an on-air reporter at KHOU in Houston, Texas. Six months later, she was offered a job at WCBS, New York, as the “hard news” reporter for the 11pm newscast.
In 1975, she moved to NBC (national) News where, as Congressional Correspondent, she spent years covering national politics.
In 1982, she pioneered the late-night news program NBC News Overnight, which she wrote and anchored with Lloyd Dobyns. Overnight was cited by the duPont-Columbia Awards as “possibly the best written and most intelligent news program ever."
In 1986, Ellerbee moved to ABC News to anchor and write Our World, a weekly primetime historical series. Her writing on Our World won her a national News & Documentary Emmy.
In 1987, Ellerbee and Rolfe Tessem, her partner, quit network news to start Lucky Duck Productions, a New York based company that produces news, documentaries and other specials for broadcast and cable.
Lucky Duck Productions began by producing documentaries for PBS. Then, in 1991, Lucky Duck began producing Nick News for Nickelodeon. Ellerbee is Executive Producer, writer and anchor.
Last year marked the 20th anniversary of Nick News, the longest running children’s news program in television history. Nick News is watched by more children than watch all other television news shows put together—and has earned honors traditionally associated with adult programming. Known for the respectful and direct way it speaks to children about the important issues of our time, Nick News has collected three Peabody Awards (including one personal Peabody given to Ellerbee for her coverage of the Clinton investigation), a duPont-Columbia Award and nine national Emmys for Outstanding Children’s Program.
In 2009, Nick News received the Edward R. Murrow Award for best Network News Documentary — and made history as the first children’s television program ever to receive this prestigious award.
For the last 20 years, Ellerbee and her work also have been seen all over the television universe, as Lucky Duck Productions has produced and continues to produce specials for ABC, CBS, HBO, PBS, Lifetime, MTV, Logo, A&E, MSNBC, SOAPnet, Animal Planet and TV Land, among others.
In 2004, Ellerbee was honored with another Emmy, this time for her series, When I Was a Girl, which aired on WE: the women’s entertainment network.
Ellerbee’s first book, And So It Goes (published in 1986), a humorous look at television news, became an instant best seller, and a favorite among journalists. Her second book, Move On, published in 1991, containing stories about being a working single mother, a child of the ‘60s, and a woman trying to find some balance in her life, was also a best seller, as was her third book (published in 2005), Take Big Bites: Adventures Around the World and Across the Table, a humorous account of her love of travel, talking to (and eating with) strangers, and, according to Ellerbee, “oh, just making trouble in general.”
Her foray into books for children, an eight-part fiction series entitled Get Real (published in 2000) about middle school students who start a school newspaper, won (and continues to win) her raves among young readers.
As a popular and versatile speaker, Ellerbee travels thousands of miles each year, inspiring audiences with her insight, while filling banquet rooms and concert halls with laughter. They come to hear her trademark wit and wisdom on everything from how to survive corporate America with your values intact to how to survive breast cancer and live to laugh about it (also, she often speaks to medical groups concerning healthcare from a patient’s point of view), and, in general, how to accept — even embrace — a changing world, perhaps even making a few changes yourself.
In 2011, Ellerbee was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Children’s Television at the annual Banff International Media Festival.
Also in 2011, at the annual Gracie Awards, Ellerbee received the Tribute Award, the highest honor given by the Alliance for Women in Media. On presenting the Gracie, former CNN anchor Aaron Brown said to a ballroom of a thousand women, “The two most important women in the history of television news are Barbara Walters and Linda Ellerbee. Barbara Walters made it possible for you to be on television news; Linda Ellerbee made it possible for you to be you on television news.”
Although Ellerbee has won most of television’s highest honors, she says it’s her partner, her two children and four grandchildren who’ve brought life’s richest rewards. Her son, Joshua Veselka, is a journalist. Her daughter, Vanessa Veselka, is a novelist. Her grandchildren, Violet, Ruben, Gabriel and Milo, are noisy. Ellerbee lives in New York City and Massachusetts with Rolfe Tessem, her partner in life and work, and their two Greek rescue dogs, Daisy and Dolly.
All speeches run approximately 45 minutes. If desired, Ellerbee will follow up with 15 minutes of Q&A. Ellerbee can shorten speeches to available time and, when asked, can combine two or more of the speeches below. Because she is known and respected by so many American women, her speeches can be (and often are) tailored to an all-woman audience. But Ellerbee’s words also resonate with an audience of men and women — older people or kids, college students or retirees — and the people in between.
CHANGE IS A FORM OF HOPE
Ellerbee uses her well-known wit and her personal stories to send a strong message that change, life’s only constant, need not be met with fear, that to risk change is to believe in tomorrow, and that you can indeed survive a changing world with your heart intact. She’s survived the trials of being one of the first women in her field, working for years in corporate America, raising two kids as a single mother, starting her own company, losing both her breasts to cancer, and overcoming her own pig-headedness (something she still has to work at). She shares her personal rules for surviving change, inspiring women (and men) to be strong, encouraging them to make noise, and urging them to do the right thing. In her extraordinary life and career, Ellerbee has learned that change is the norm, and that it’s better to make it than be caught by it.
SURVIVING BREAST CANCER TO LAUGH ANOTHER DAY
Ellerbee knows that cancer is a family disease, even a cancer that strikes mostly women. In her rightfully famous speeches on this subject, she describes her own journey through cancer, from the devastation of diagnosis, the loss of both breasts, walking through the dark valley of chemo, wrestling with the fear of death — and how good it feels to still be on the right side of the grass 20 years later. She talks of dealing with the medical profession, family and friends — all of whom, even when well intentioned, occasionally seem misguided or absurd, if not downright silly. Ellerbee encourages women to become partners in their treatment, to stand up for themselves, to make a big noise, to fight — and fight back. She speaks directly to the hearts of women, sharing stories that make them laugh and make them cry, and then show them how to find the beauty — and healing powers — of laughter through tears. Life goes on. So can you.
HOW TO SUCCEED AND STILL HANG ONTO YOUR VALUES
How to build a strong career by doing it your way. How to find your own power. How to not lose yourself or your values as you rise in your work. How you can — and cannot — balance work and family. How you can manage to stay human by managing a company humanely. Ellerbee delivers a series of useful messages to employers and employees through plenty of humor and stories — from having a boss to being the boss. And still being able to face yourself in the mirror. What she offers is nothing less than a new template for a new century of working women — and men.
HOW TO RAISE A MEDIA-SAVVY KID
In the future, kids will learn to use the media that surround them as tools, or they will be tools of that media. Television. The Internet. Smartphones. Facebook. Twitter. What's next? Parents and teachers need some help here. What is media literacy and how do you teach it to kids? Ellerbee, using (as always) humor and personal stories to make her points, offers insight, perspective and simple advice gained from speaking with (and listening to) kids for over 20 years on the critically-acclaimed and longest-running children’s news and documentary series in television history, Nick News with Linda Ellerbee…and from raising two media-savvy kids of her own. PLEASE NOTE: THIS SPEECH MAY BE TAILORED FOR EDUCATION GROUPS. Ellerbee will talk about how teachers can use media as a teaching tool and turn media from the enemy into the teacher’s friend.
AND SO IT GOES: ADVENTURES IN JOURNALISM
She began her career by getting fired from the Associated Press three months after getting hired — which turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to her career. From newspapers to networks, Ellerbee went from covering fires and parades to covering presidential campaigns and international terrorism, anchoring ground-breaking television series such as Weekend, NBC News Overnight, Our World, and Nick News with Linda Ellerbee, which, in its 21st year on the air, is television’s longest running news program for kids. She became known for her writing and for respecting her audience, and collected TV’s most prestigious awards along the way. Her best-selling book, And So It Goes, a humorous look at TV News, is still used as a journalism textbook over 25 years after it was published. Once upon a time, they called her an irreverent newcomer, then a seasoned veteran and now a pioneering female journalist. Throughout her career, Ellerbee has become famous for doing it her way. She’s had a helluva good time, and hopes that maybe, just maybe, she changed television news a tiny bit. Ellerbee, who still does it her way, also has a lot to say about journalism today and journalism tomorrow. Her commencement speeches to young journalism graduates are designed to encourage them to take their work seriously without taking themselves seriously, and to inspire them to make journalism better — because they can.
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