The life of Savannah Guthrie: How a local news anchor quit journalism only to become one of the biggest morning show stars on Earth

Savannah Guthrie is seen amongst crew and fans whilst hosting NBC's Savannah Guthrie is seen amongst crew and fans whilst hosting NBC's &quotToday Show" live from AustraliaDon Arnold / WireImage / Getty

  • Savannah Guthrie has been a main co-anchor on the "Today" show since 2012.
  • Unsure about what to do with her life, she took her mother's suggestion to study journalism. It stuck. After graduating, she started out as a television host on local news channels and worked her way up.
  • Although she knew early on that she wanted to be on television, she took a detour and went to law school and had a short-lived legal career before taking the biggest leap of her life - into TV news.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

Savannah Guthrie always wanted to be on television.

After studying journalism, she started out as an anchor on a local news channel. Ten days later, the newsroom closed down.

But she persevered, found other jobs, and worked her way up.

Later, she took a detour and worked for a few years as a white-collar criminal lawyer before she returned full-time to the news. She called it "one of the biggest, craziest jumps I ever made."

Guthrie has steadily ascended since. In 2012, she became the new co-host on the "Today" show.

In a commencement speech at George Washington University in May 2019, she said, "My path is not how anyone would tell anybody to get anywhere. It's like someone giving you directions from right here to New York City by telling you to start heading toward Miami."

Here's a look at Guthrie's life, in photos.

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Savannah Clark Guthrie was born on December 27, 1971, in Melbourne, Australia.

Savannah Clark Guthrie was born on December 27, 1971, in Melbourne, Australia.

When she was two years old, her family moved to Tuscon, Arizona, which is where she grew up.

Refinery29 called her "an unlikely role model for the laid-back dreamers."

"I wasn't much of a go-getter in my younger years," Guthrie told Refinery 29. "In high school, I was kind of a slacker."

She went to Amphitheater High School and said she never got invited to prom.

Growing up, Guthrie regularly attended church.

Growing up, Guthrie regularly attended church.

Her family spent all of Sunday at the local Baptist Church — for Sunday school, morning service, choir practice, and night service.

"Faith was so woven into our daily lives, we liked to say that God was the sixth member of the Guthrie family," she wrote in a blog post.

Her parents wanted their children to focus on who they were and to develop their character.

Her parents wanted their children to focus on who they were and to develop their character.

This was more important than physical appearances, or sports.

"I was never any good at sports," Guthrie told Refinery 29.

When Guthrie was 16, her father, an engineer, died from a fatal heart attack while he was in Mexico for work. Nancy, her mother, stepped up and was the "rock" who kept the family together.

When Guthrie was 16, her father, an engineer, died from a fatal heart attack while he was in Mexico for work. Nancy, her mother, stepped up and was the "rock" who kept the family together.

Until then Nancy had raised the family full time. But after her husband's death, she went back to work. She landed a job in public relations at the University of Arizona, which meant Savannah and her sister Annie could go to college tuition-free.

As for her father's death, Guthrie said it had made her more sensitive, gentler, and kinder.

"Of course it was terrible, and I think about him every day — but there's something about a dramatic event like that that makes you a bit more tender, a bit softer," she told Elle.

It was Nancy who suggested Guthrie study journalism.

It was Nancy who suggested Guthrie study journalism.

Guthrie followed her mother's advice and earned a journalism degree from the University of Arizona, graduating cum laude in 1993.

"It was only in college when I started taking journalism classes that the fire was lit, and I really wanted to accomplish things. Before that, I was happy to hang out with my friends and listen to grunge music and wear my chunky heels," she told Refinery 29.

While studying, she was published in the Tombstone Epitaph, a community newspaper, and "Arizona Illustrated." She also interned with Arizona Gov. Fife Symington and Sen. Dennis DeConcini.

After graduating, Guthrie got her first break as a reporter in a local newsroom of four, in Butte, Montana. The station closed down ten days later.

After graduating, Guthrie got her first break as a reporter in a local newsroom of four, in Butte, Montana. The station closed down ten days later.

The closure threw Guthrie's career trajectory out the window. But it was the beginning of Guthrie's journey along the "long road" of TV's minor leagues, as The Hollywood Reporter put it.

Less than two weeks after leaving, Guthrie returned to her home town.

Less than two weeks after leaving, Guthrie returned to her home town.

She despaired a little, found her way to the bottom of a few Ben and Jerries tubs.

Then, she went back to the job market. For her, the dream was always television.

After a few weeks, she was hired as a reporter and anchor for KMIZ-TV in Columbia, Missouri. It paid off.

After a few weeks, she was hired as a reporter and anchor for KMIZ-TV in Columbia, Missouri. It paid off.

For her work, she was awarded an "Excellence in Legal Journalism Award," from the Missouri Bar.

In 1995, she moved back to Tucson. For the next four years, she worked as a reporter and anchor for KVOA-TV focusing on law and politics.

In 1995, she moved back to Tucson. For the next four years, she worked as a reporter and anchor for KVOA-TV focusing on law and politics.

KVOA reporter Lupita Murillo told Tucson.com it was a joy and pleasure working with Guthrie. "We would always trade off stories, if I had a court story and she had something to do with crime, we'd switch. She was great even back then."

In 2000, as she was entering her late twenties, she moved to Washington DC.

In 2000, as she was entering her late twenties, she moved to Washington DC.

According to NPR, she wanted bigger challenges than being a local TV reporter, so she enrolled in law school at Georgetown University.

Guthrie had been inspired by the coverage of the Simpson and Menendez brothers trials on Court TV. But it was a stressful time for Guthrie.

"Each morning in D.C., I'd wake up and read the Bible. In a little notebook, I started writing down verses that particularly spoke to me," she wrote in a blog post. "On nights that I worried about a tough exam or the future that felt so uncertain, I'd turn to those verses to help me sleep, or calm my anxious heart."

At the same time, she continued working as a freelance reporter for WRC-TV.

At the same time, she continued working as a freelance reporter for WRC-TV.

Guthrie reported on several big stories, including the September 11 terrorist attacks and the 2001 anthrax mailings.

In 2002, she graduated with a law degree, magna cum laude.

In 2002, she graduated with a law degree, magna cum laude.

She'd clearly been working hard. She won the International Academy of Trial Lawyers' Student Advocacy award for her work with domestic violence victims. She also topped the Arizona Bar Exam, beating 633 others.

For the next two years, she worked as a lawyer for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer, on white-collar criminal defense litigation. She continued reporting on the side, joining Court TV in 2002.

For the next two years, she worked as a lawyer for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer, on white-collar criminal defense litigation. She continued reporting on the side, joining Court TV in 2002.

Although this would be the extent of her law career, she said the legal training helped her journalism.

Stemming from her time as a lawyer, her goal in interviews is to always try to think of a question interviewees would rather not be asked, just to see what they would say.

In a graduation speech she made to George Washington University, she said leaving the law was "one of the biggest, craziest jumps" she ever made.

In a graduation speech she made to George Washington University, she said leaving the law was "one of the biggest, craziest jumps" she ever made.

"It wasn't a cliff; it was the federal courthouse here in Washington, DC," she said in a commencement speech.

Months before she was due to start as a law clerk for a federal judge, she had an epiphany.

"It wasn't my dream. What I really wanted was to go back to my roots in journalism. I still had that nagging hope that one day I could really make it in television news," she said.

Guthrie went and spoke to the judge. He asked why she didn't come work for him for a year since it would help her career, especially since she didn't have a job lined up.

"And that's when I looked at him and told him: 'I know you're right. What you say makes perfect sense," she said. "But I also know myself, and if I don't do this, right this minute, I will never have the guts again."

From 2004 to 2006, she was Court TV's legal affairs correspondent.

From 2004 to 2006, she was Court TV's legal affairs correspondent.

She covered cases like Zacarias Moussaoui trial, the Boston clergy sex abuse scandal, and the Scooter Libby case.

While covering the Michael Jackson trial in 2005, Guthrie met her first husband, former BBC journalist Mark Orchard. They married in December 2005 but divorced in 2009.

While covering the Michael Jackson trial in 2005, Guthrie met her first husband, former BBC journalist Mark Orchard. They married in December 2005 but divorced in 2009.

"I was doing the best I could in my personal life, and my professional life was going better," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "So you know, you just keep doing the thing that works."

In 2007, she became an NBC News legal correspondent, where she appeared on "Today" and "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams."

In 2007, she became an NBC News legal correspondent, where she appeared on "Today" and "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams."

According to Jacqueline Sharkey, the former director of Arizona University's School of Journalism, Guthrie's law degree was invaluable for covering events like Supreme Court decisions, and health-care initiatives.

Guthrie's big break came when she was sent out to Wasilla, Alaska, to cover Sarah Palin.

Guthrie's big break came when she was sent out to Wasilla, Alaska, to cover Sarah Palin.

According to Adweek, Palin refused interviews with a lot of media outlets, but she had a one-on-one with Guthrie, about parents with special needs children.

Her success with Palin led to her becoming NBC's White House correspondent in December 2008.

Her success with Palin led to her becoming NBC's White House correspondent in December 2008.

She covered the White House until June 2011 and was part of the NBC team that won an Emmy for their coverage of election night.

As for actually liking the job, Guthrie told The Hollywood Reporter, "There's just so much news and information around the White House and Washington that you never can feel that you know it all. I always felt like I was cramming for exams. I loved it and I hated it at the same time."

She also hosted NBC's Daily Rundown from January 2010 to June 2011. According to The Nation, Guthrie was positioned to the side of Chuck Todd, forcing her to lean in.

She also hosted NBC's Daily Rundown from January 2010 to June 2011. According to The Nation, Guthrie was positioned to the side of Chuck Todd, forcing her to lean in.

But that didn't stop her from being a sharp interviewer, and holding her "subjects' feet to the fire."

During this stint, she worked closely with Todd.

During this stint, she worked closely with Todd.

They worked 12 hour days together, in an office described by Todd as a "15-by-8 cell," and "a horror" by Guthrie. They're still friends though, and Todd told The Hollywood Reporter in grim journalistic fashion, "We talk each other off the ledge."

It was while she was covering the White House that she met Democratic political consultant Michael Feldman, a former aide to Al Gore, at his 40th birthday party.

It was while she was covering the White House that she met Democratic political consultant Michael Feldman, a former aide to Al Gore, at his 40th birthday party.

"I met a man named Mike Feldman at a party, a political consultant who made me laugh. We fell in love," she wrote in a blog post.

Guthrie's work, and her on-air personality, was noticed by the higher-ups at NBC.

Guthrie's work, and her on-air personality, was noticed by the higher-ups at NBC.

Months before "Today" co-host Anne Curry made a messy departure, Guthrie was being looked at as a potential new host. An unnamed source told the New York Magazine that, unlike Curry's intense reporting style, Guthrie had "that girl-next-door quality."

When Curry left, "Today" lost 500,000 viewers, $40 million in advertising, and "Good Morning America" took its coveted first place in the rating's race. Guthrie was also cast as "the other woman" who had pushed Curry out, according to New York Magazine.

In 2012, she became an official "Today" show cohost.

In 2012, she became an official "Today" show cohost.

On her first day, the new role wasn't mentioned at all on air. She simply sat down beside Matt Lauer. It was only hours after the show that NBC put out a press release.

And while Guthrie was taking the reins from Ann Curry when "Today" was in bad shape, she had "made it" in television news. Her dream had come true.

And while Guthrie was taking the reins from Ann Curry when "Today" was in bad shape, she had "made it" in television news. Her dream had come true.

Even if it was by no means a perfect first day. "I think that was a hard day for everyone who cares about this show," Guthrie told New York Magazine. "All of us … feel connected to what happened … and feel it really personally."

Things were coming together for Guthrie.

Things were coming together for Guthrie.

In 2013, Feldman proposed to her while they were on holiday in Turks and Caicos, and in 2014, they got married in Tucson, Arizona. At the wedding, they announced she was four months pregnant with their first child.

Each of the 80 guests received a handwritten personalized note, each with a monogrammed luggage tag, which was a joke about all the flights both Guthrie and Feldman have to take for their careers.

They now have two kids, Vale and Charley. And even though she's interviewed the president and worked as a co-anchor on a national network, nothing prepared Guthrie for being a mother.

They now have two kids, Vale and Charley. And even though she's interviewed the president and worked as a co-anchor on a national network, nothing prepared Guthrie for being a mother.

"All the new-mother books and websites and mommy blogs in the world couldn't ease the helplessness I felt whenever Vale's blue eyes filled with tears," she wrote in Guideposts.

As a co-anchor of "Today," Guthrie wakes up between 3 and 4 a.m., Monday to Friday.

As a co-anchor of "Today," Guthrie wakes up between 3 and 4 a.m., Monday to Friday.

She's at her office by 5.30 a.m. The early hours are not just to get to work though. She prepares for the show while drinking coffee and having her makeup done. And according to Refinery 29's Donna Freydkin, "she never yawns."

Guthrie likes the early mornings because it means she gets more time with her kids. While it's demanding and intense, she is home by midday.

Guthrie likes the early mornings because it means she gets more time with her kids. While it's demanding and intense, she is home by midday.

"As a working mom, that is a dream come true," she said.

The mornings also fly by, with barely enough time for a second coffee, as she and her co-hosts work inside the studio, go outside to greet fans, race through different segments, and then return inside again.

But Guthrie is also aware of the downside of being in the public eye.

But Guthrie is also aware of the downside of being in the public eye.

She told the Hollywood Reporter that the criticism she receives is often sexist.

"Everybody gets 'You're biased,'" she said. "But you may also get 'Why do you roll your eyes and make that face? Why does your voice sound so shrill?'"

"Honestly, I'm interested in fair criticism. I'm not perfect. I try really hard to stay neutral. But often that's not what you're finding on social media. You're finding people who are very opinionated and detect bias in anyone who does not share that opinion," she continued.

Despite the social media criticisms, she's gotten support from NBC executives.

Despite the social media criticisms, she's gotten support from NBC executives.

In 2016, as ratings for "Today" were on the rise, NBC News and MSNBC chairman Andrew Lack had much praise for Guthrie.

"One of the things I really do love about Savannah is she's game," he told Adweek. "She's up for the question, and damn it, give me an answer. I admire that about her. She's got a very good bullshit barometer."

By the end of 2016, "Today" was winning the ratings race.

By the end of 2016, "Today" was winning the ratings race.

It was once more the most-watched morning show for 25 to 54 year-olds, as well as No. 1 for 18 to 49 year-olds.

What made Guthrie valuable for "Today" was her ability to go from playing piano with John Legend...

What made Guthrie valuable for "Today" was her ability to go from playing piano with John Legend...

According to New York Daily News, she could swing easily between the serious and the silly.

...to interviewing Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the US Capitol.

...to interviewing Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the US Capitol.

In that regard, she was similar to her predecessors Katie Couric and Meredith Vieira.

Guthrie and Lauer's strong chemistry was also important in their ratings revival.

Guthrie and Lauer's strong chemistry was also important in their ratings revival.

It didn't seem to be an act, either. While on maternity leave in 2017, Guthrie made a surprise reappearance to celebrate Lauer's 20th anniversary on "Today."

On that episode, she said, "I just want to say, we adore you. One of the things that is so wonderful about you is that from the second I walked in here, one of the things I noticed is that Matt knows every single person's first name and last name. He knows the name of their dog. He knows how their mother is doing."

But NBC clearly believed Guthrie's presence was vital.

But NBC clearly believed Guthrie's presence was vital.

In 2017, NBC reportedly pulled her back in four days early from maternity leave because ratings had fallen in her absence.

In 2017, Guthrie published a children's book called "Princesses Wear Pants" she wrote with Allison Oppenheim, who is married to NBC head Noah Oppenheim.

In 2017, Guthrie published a children's book called "Princesses Wear Pants" she wrote with Allison Oppenheim, who is married to NBC head Noah Oppenheim.

They wrote it because they wanted their children to know they could be "sparkly, but sparkle inside." It was a New York Times bestseller.

In November 2017, she announced Lauer had been fired after NBC news received a complaint about inappropriate sexual behavior.

In November 2017, she announced Lauer had been fired after NBC news received a complaint about inappropriate sexual behavior.

She said, "For the moment, all we can say is that we are heartbroken. I'm heartbroken for Matt — he is my dear, dear friend and my partner. And he is beloved by many, many people here, and I'm heartbroken for the brave colleague who came forward to tell her story."

In 2019, she responded to allegations made by Brooke Nevils against her former co-host Matt Lauer in Ronan Farrow's book "Catch and Kill." She said she was "shocked and appalled."

In 2019, she responded to allegations made by Brooke Nevils against her former co-host Matt Lauer in Ronan Farrow's book "Catch and Kill." She said she was "shocked and appalled."

"I know it wasn't easy for our colleague Brooke to come forward then, it's not easy now, and we support her and any women who have come forward with claims," she said. "It's just very painful for all of us at NBC and who are at the Today show. It's very, very, very difficult."

In June 2019, she was one of the five NBC moderators for the first Democratic presidential primary debate.

In June 2019, she was one of the five NBC moderators for the first Democratic presidential primary debate.

Slate praised her for being efficient and clear, and for pushing candidates to clarify and expand their positions rather than revert back to prepared lines.

In November 2019, Guthrie's 2-year-old son Charlie threw a sharp toy train at her and almost blinded her in on eye.

In November 2019, Guthrie's 2-year-old son Charlie threw a sharp toy train at her and almost blinded her in on eye.

She called in to 'Today' and informed viewers that Charlie "threw a toy train right at my eye and tore my retina."

"I lost vision in my right eye about 24 hours later, and then it turned out to be kind of serious," she said. "They were afraid my retina was detached, so they told me to take it easy."

But by December, her eye was on the mend. She had at least five laser surgeries to reattach her retina, which meant she didn't have to have undergo retinal surgery.

As for what's next, Guthrie said, despite her success, she's more motivated by her fear of failure than a desire to succeed.

As for what's next, Guthrie said, despite her success, she's more motivated by her fear of failure than a desire to succeed.

So, for now, Guthrie will continue hosting "Today" with Hoda Kotb and making sure those fears push her forward.

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