Posing inside the turbine of a DC-10 cargo plane in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt last week, Jane Pauley was dressed for fall weather that was nowhere in sight. Smiling and laughing despite the heat, the Hoosier native was in Indy to shoot a segment for her Today series, “Life Reimagined,” at the Indianapolis International Airport. And though this was just one stop among the seven cities where she’ll be filming over the next two months, she did make time to sit down with Indianapolis Monthly to talk hairstyles, the future of broadcast journalism, and reinvention.
So you’re typically the one conducting the interview. Do you feel like being on the other side once in awhile makes you better at it?
I think it does help. In almost every interview I’ve done, there has been some moment where the person I’m talking to gets this wonderful look in their eye that says, “I’ve never thought about that before.” Which for me is the “bingo” moment. It’s when I got what I came for, which is helping someone see himself in a different way.
How often do you end up coming back to Indiana these days?
I’m here at least three times a year, sometimes four. I’ll do something for Indiana University, the Jane Pauley Community Health Center, or The Mind Trust where I’m on the board of directors. So while I don’t have family here any longer, I’m here a lot. It’s a very different city than when I left. It’s an amazing place, and I’m proud to be from Indy.
Do you have any places that you always need to visit when you’re here?
My places are all gone! When I was younger, I couldn’t afford to go to the good places. So no, I just enjoy discovering. Meeting friends who will take me to some place interesting in Broad Ripple. So it’s all new to me. There’s a lot to discover.
I have to ask about your hairstyles, which have been a topic of conversation for so many years now …
I don’t know this definitively, but no one has ever proved me wrong: I coined the phrase “bad hair day.”
How do you feel about being one of the first big-name female broadcasters?
I wasn’t a pioneer—that was Barbara Walter’s generation. Those were the women who succeeded in an industry that wasn’t that friendly to them. Then my generation came along, taking things for granted.
Where do you see broadcast journalism going in the future?
It really is being reinvented. But I look at young people who aspire to careers in broadcast journalism, and part of me thinks, “What jobs? What will they do?” And another part of me is envious because they’ll be reinventing it. They will be the pioneers who redefine what it is. So we’re on the cusp of something new, and I can only sit back and watch.
Your segment on Today is all about reinvention. How have you reinvented yourself?
I never invented anything until I was in my 50s. I always had a career where opportunity kept knocking at my door. To my credit, I always opened the door. But I could never really take credit for inventing it. I just kept afloat until the end of my daytime show. And when that ended, I was old enough to become aware that, to quote one of the people I interviewed, “Nothing is going to happen this time, if I don’t make it happen myself.” And now it’s been four seasons, and we haven’t repeated ourselves. Almost every story has been a different take on what reinvention means.
What advice would you give Hoosiers who have retired and are looking to reinvent themselves?
In January I have a book coming out, Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life. It’s not an advice book. These are stories. I blended my own and some of my friends’ stories and all the stuff about reinvention I had been collecting for years. There’s a Washington Post headline that kind of sums up my take on reinvention. It said, “Inspiration is everywhere, but you have to be looking.” So looking is key. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re looking for. In fact most of the time, in my experience, the people who are eager to do something different or have this yearning to find more meaning in their lives haven’t a clue what it is. It’s a matter of being open to something you haven’t thought of yet. Being able to recognize when you’re able to get out of your comfort zone, which I relate to strongly because I can sink very quickly into a comfort zone.
Pauley’s segment filmed in Indianapolis featuring the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital will air sometime in December (the date has not been chosen yet) on Today between 8:30 and 9 a.m. For up-to-date information, you can follow her on Twitter at @JanePauleyTODAY.