It's nearly four months since Connie Chung gave up her weekly CBS series to concentrate on trying to have a child.
For someone who has long had a fierce ambition to achieve topmost network stardom, it was a dramatic personal decision for the 44-year-old anchor. She was on the verge of having it all.
In a phone interview from New York, Chung, who is married to fellow TV journalist Maury Povich, clearly had no regrets, although she said she was not yet pregnant: "The answer is no. I have no news to report yet."
Wanting a child is no joke. But Chung has grown used to the gags that inevitably followed her frank declaration that "I now need to take a very aggressive approach to having a baby."
"There have been a lot of jokes--on Carson, Letterman, Arsenio," she said.
And is she offended?
"No. Of course not. The jokes are very funny."
Chung's withdrawal from her weekly series--which was to follow such major Monday hits as "Murphy Brown" and "Designing Women," both now Top 10 shows--cost her one of TV's best time slots and perhaps great ratings success.
The slot was taken over by CBS' new drama series "The Trials of Rosie O'Neill," which has done well with Sharon Gless as a public defender.
Chung's planned series now turns up only occasionally as specials, with the next one--her first since Sept. 10--scheduled for Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, with Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward and Kevin Costner as interview guests.
Thanksgiving is widely regarded in the TV industry as a poor viewing night because of family holiday dinners and get-together celebrations. But Chung scoffs at the notion that CBS has downgraded her special by airing it on that night, when such series as "The Cosby Show," "A Different World," "The Flash" and "L.A. Law" are running repeat episodes.
"Oh, good heavens, no," she said. "Thanksgiving is a great night. Everybody's home with their families. They have their turkey. Then they settle down to watch a program. It's perfect. They're not out doing something else."
The next "Face to Face with Connie Chung" special will be broadcast in the less-significant TV month of December, well after the key November ratings sweeps are over.
Chung, as indefatigable and focused as ever, is determined that her personal life and professional career will turn out a double triumph despite the changes she instigated--among them, cutting down on travel after consulting with doctors.
"I'm still working six days a week," she said. "I still continue to put stories together. I'm still doing the Sunday CBS news. I did election night. And I've been subbing for Dan Rather. But I haven't been on the road as much.
"Last year, I was pretty much on the road from either Sunday night or Monday until Wednesday or Thursday. And then I'd come down and we'd tape the show on Friday. And I'd have Saturday off, sometimes. And then I'd do the Sunday news."
Considering her personal goals, why is she driving herself so much?
"It's hard for me to change 20 years of behavior. And I've always worked on overdrive. That's probably why I'm still working six days a week, because I don't know how to work any other way. The way I work is at a fast pace. It's the way I am. I cannot change my behavior. But last year (because of the travel), I was working like a maniac."
If she has her hoped-for baby, would she stop working?
"No. Absolutely not."
When Chung decided in July "to lighten my workload" in trying to have a child, she thrust herself into the spotlight as a highly visible example of someone attempting to reconcile the matters of career and family. Has she thought about that?
"Sure. I mean, for me it was a very personal decision. But I realized the impact that it could have. In terms of the letters that I've gotten, and the phone calls, people have been very supportive. Many women who were older have told me that it gave them pause to think."
About whether to wait that long to have a baby?
And that, she said, is what she meant when she spoke about taking "a very aggressive approach to having a baby."
"See, at my age, 44, that's what I have to do," said Chung.
When Chung, because of her status at CBS, was able to have her working conditions modified in her attempt to have a child, it was suggested in some quarters that women of lesser clout at the network now might have legal footing to demand the same consideration. Couldn't her case open the doors for such demands?
"I suppose so," she said.
Could she see the case opening doors for men, too, in special situations?
"I hadn't thought about that. If it's a medical situation, I suppose so," she added.
Even from her days as a Los Angeles anchor, Chung has been extraordinarily cautious, private and tight-mouthed in public statements in her pursuit of TV's top rung. So going public with her intimate plans must have been painful. Did she think it was necessary to go into such detail--including the blunt phrasing that some praised but others considered ill-advised?
"Well, it was a really hard decision," she said. "I decided that honesty was the best way to go. Maury and I talked it over extensively. What should we do? What should I say?
"Surely I would have preferred to keep my private life private. Absolutely. But this is what I had to do. I had no choice. I really didn't."