NBC News Correspondent Kelly O’Donnell Is First Woman to Receive RTCA Career Achievement Award

By A.J. Katz 

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It has been a bad month to-date for NBC News, but the network finally had something to cheer about last night.

Longtime NBC News White House correspondent Kelly O’Donnell was honored by the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association yesterday evening with the Career Achievement Award for Distinguished Reporting on Congress.

O’Donnell, a 25-year veteran of NBC, is the first woman to ever receive this particular honor from the organization.

In her acceptance remarks, O’Donnell spoke about the state of the news business:

The news business is at its heart a business of questions. Most questions we ask of others, the newsmakers we cover, but some are questions best directed at ourselves. Will I be worthy of what is required today? Knowing it could be a seemingly ordinary day or one where another piece of history is carved. Will I be fair? Will I be thorough? Will I keep my opinions out of my work? Will I keep a sense of humor and a sense of humanity? Will I remember in the more exhausting moments how lucky I am to do this work?

She also shouted out to two legendary members of Congress whom she covered for years: The late Sen. Ted Kennedy, and the late Sen. John McCain.

On. Sen. Kennedy: “I learned that Sen. Kennedy believed grief makes people uncomfortable so it’s easy to hesitate and not want to intrude but he knew all too well that it was more helpful to make the connection when the pain was most acute.  He understood that and acted on it.”

On Sen. McCain: We all know he loved a good fight.  Every fight was to be joined and enjoyed. He shared how one day the Senate gallery was full with citizen spectators and whatever the issue on the floor, it was not one for the history books.”

VP and NBC Washington bureau chief Ken Strickland introduced O’Donnell:

One of the traits about Kelly that’s easy to overlook but has been critical to her success as a reporter are the relationships she’s built with on the hill with staffers and members alike. Kelly was especially close to two lions of the Senate who have since passed away:  John McCain and Ted Kennedy. Kelly, I know they’re smiling down on you right now.”

Additionally, Adweek Editor and SVP, Programming Lisa Granatstein caught up with O’Donnell this week for Adweek’s Inside the Brand: Women Trailblazers feature:

Adweek: What pivotal moment throughout your career most stands out in your mind? 

O’Donnell: It’s hard to choose just one, but more recently I recall the weight of the moment when I broke the news that Hillary Clinton had conceded the presidential race in a phone call to Donald Trump. That one act, steeped in the history of campaigns, is riveting because it so captures a final and consequential point when a long, costly and emotional campaign journey for the country ends. The concession call brings peak emotions to each side. I felt the impact of all of that energy and emotion as I reported that news. I could feel the giant page turning.