How did you get started in the news business?
It’s embarrassing when I go back that far, but I was the 12-year-old who wrote the letter to the local news guy—the Walter Cronkite of the town I grew up in. The line in the [reply] letter was “competition in the television newsroom is keen, but there’s always room for the right person and it could be you.”
So you took them up on it?
I was a 13-year-old news intern [at CBS’ WTVH, Syracuse, N.Y.]. They’d measure how much I’d grown year to year. When I graduated, that was my first job, anchoring and reporting the news. And then at five o’clock I was reporting the news and saying, “Here’s Ron Curtis with what’s coming up at six.”
How does the new agenda compare to what you started off with?
It is sort of an insane schedule, I’ll admit it. Last year I worked every day; there was Tahrir Square and Fukushima, and then the famine in Africa. I thought, “At least this year will be easier,” and then they asked me to take on 20/20.
You’ve taken World News to some interesting places.
We had fought for quite some time to get into Iran—visas are hard to come by—and we raced over there not knowing what we’d get, and we expected to have a government minder with us but didn’t. We’d been shooting for about 10 minutes and then the police pulled us aside and we sat in a room for about two hours while they questioned us. We were guests of the government, so we knew we’d get out of there, but it happened again the next day.
Did you get to interact with the locals at all?
There was a moment when we were outside a school where they were teaching English and the boys came rushing out and surrounded the camera and me, and they were fascinated that I’d been allowed in. They had more questions for me than I had for them.
It does sound like an incredibly packed schedule.
When I hear “13-hour flight,” I get excited, because it’s 13 hours no one can get ahold of you on your BlackBerry.
Do you worry that moving to a more prominent position will keep you chained to the desk?
I think the best anchors out there are the ones who globe trot and who are hungry every day to explore another corner of the world. Once I’m done with one project, I’m already thinking, “What’s the next thing I want to investigate?”
What have you witnessed recently that was important for you to see firsthand?
We went to Somalia and we were the first team witnessing the worst famine in a generation.
Are you ever in danger doing this stuff?
We were fired upon by Al Qaeda-linked groups. You’re in bulletproof vests in these convoys, checking on families living in tents. They’re surrounded by what used to be beautiful architecture that’s just been cratered for decades.
Do you get to repurpose stuff from one program to the next?
It’s one of the benefits in crafting this new role. When we break into prime time with this new hour, you’ll not only be covering this news but you’ll be breaking it in prime time at 6:30.
Anything you’ve already done?
The first weekend of 20/20, the whole country was fixated on that boy in the bunker in Alabama. We raced down there and got the first interview with the family and the first video of the boy as he celebrated his sixth birthday. We did it on World News and on 20/20 that night.