Behind the Scenes with Nancy Cordes

TV is always looking for that miraculous combination: girl next door appeal, IMG_5035steel trap mind, and the spark of something more in their news correspondent’s eyes. Lucky for CBS, Nancy Cordes fits the bill.

I met with Nancy last night at her studio in Washington, D.C. She has timeless grace, an easy way of making you feel as if you’ve been friends forever, and a body that is wonderfully photogenic even when she isn’t posing. She evokes instant trust.

Nancy spoke about growing up in Hawaii and how she wanted to go to college as far from home as possible. She settled on the University of Pennsylvania and Nancy Cordes with Diana croppedgraduated Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude. After getting her MPA from Princeton, she started her career as a freelance reporter and was tapped for a full time job one year out of school. From there, she worked 3 AM shifts at local stations, on the affiliate desk, and finally for the last 7 years as Congressional Correspondent for CBS.

Walking into CBS in D.C. is interesting. It’s a smallish, not very modern building on a busy street, jam-packed with wires, and cameras, and monitors, everywhere you look. The halls are lined with photos of some of television’s greats. In the control room is a newspaper sheet with Walter Cronkite’s photo on it. DSCN5598A young Connie Chung is on another wall. On the main desk sits a little rubber capitol with a small flag rigged to flutter above it. Patriotic symbols are everywhere.

The studio space is tinier than you’d think. A IMG_5015chair with a teleprompter sits in one corner of the newsroom ready for live commentary. The only real studio is for Face the Nation, one of CBS’s Sunday stalwart programs.

Beneath Nancy Cordes’ charming exterior, her Ivy League education and nascent intellect bubble to the surface. Her life-experience as a mom does, too. She speaks about the members of Congress with an in-depth knowledge that is astounding. When asked about the bipartisan deadlock, she said, “It is frustrating when you think it can’t get worse, and then every year, it does get worse. Both parties need to spend time in my son’s preschool for a few days and relearn the concepts of cooperation and sharing.”



And her opinion on term limits? “Well, it’s an idea, but you also need people with experience to run the government. Would you want someone who’d only been elected three years ago to chair the Senate Armed Services Committee, making decisions about whether or not we go to war?”

When pushed to disclose whether there was partisanship in IMG_5021newcasting, she said, “I don’t even know the party affiliation of most of my coworkers. You wouldn’t last long in this business if people did know. They’d assume you were biased, so most reporters don’t mention it.”

She defends CBS’s integrity with great credibility. Nancy Cordes believes in the job she’s doing and you see that in every word she speaks. She’s one of the rare few that can digest all the governmental garbage flung at her each day and turn it into soundbites worth listening to.

“It’s been a really frustrating year,” she says. “It’s hard to report on a Congress that isn’t doing much.” Then a breath later. “Who else can have a job where you can question Senators as they come out of the lunchroom, or from a meeting with the President? And if you really need an answer to a question, you can wait all day outside a Senator’s office. They have to come out of there sometime.” She grins mischievously.


Over all, she’s charming. She poses for photos, offers her personal email address, then showed off the Face the Nation set and the new scenery backdrop that will air this Sunday.

In a glass enclosed booth with wall-to-wall monitors, telephones and other equipment, she excitedly introduced Phil who runs the control room. Next are Joey, a video editor, who explains how video is cut and inserted into shows, and Rebecca Kaplan, a political DSCN5585correspondent for, whom she invites to talk about the inglorious joy of reporting on the campaign trail.  She waits patiently for Josh, who mans the night desk, to finish a phone call, so he can discuss organizing staff, watching for breaking news, and making sure footage is properly archived.

Each time, her clear regard for the importance of each person’s role stands out. Their smiles and laughter mix with hers. In a gloomy, IMG_5033windowless TV station, where the fluorescence of monitors is the primary lighting source, their sunny dispositions really make a difference.

It seems CBS has a lovefest going on in the newsroom.

Now, that’s news I like.



Candice Gilmer’s Just His Taste

What do you get when you cross a motorcycle-riding,22181805 leather-wearing, fairy godmother, intent on finding her male charge the woman of his dreams, with Cupid, the Greek gods, and pure mayhem? Answer: Candice Gilmer’s fantastic new book: Just His Taste.

Here’s the back of book blurb:

Avalynn Fay is not a typical Fairy Godmother. She wears leather body suits, rides motorcycles, Continue reading

A Duke’s Wicked Kiss: Great Fiction from Kathleen Bittner Roth

Golden Heart Finalist Kathleen Bittner Roth is an expert storyteller. Her intricate and spellbinding historical/romantic suspense takes the reader from 81chOz+5v6L._SL1500_ England to India and back again. Spun against a lush background of Indian palaces, exotic jewels, a cheetah, and an uprising, her characters and writing sizzle as much as the romance. This satisfying and well-written book, laden with incredible detail, transports readers to places and times impossible to otherwise experience.

Here’s the blurb for A Duke’s Wicked Kiss:

While on a secret mission for the Crown, a proper duke falls for an improper daughter of an Indian royal and British noble.

Miss Suri Thurston knows the pain of abandonment. Intent on confronting the grandmother who tossed her to the lions, Continue reading

A Moment, and a Lifetime, with Joan Rivers

The scruffy man approached me on a Manhattan street with a fan of tickets in his hand. “Would you like to see a free show?” he asked.  Joan Rivers 2010 by David Shankbone courtesy Wikipedia

“Uh, no.”

It was 1989 and when men in the Times Square section of NY asked you that kind of question they invariably meant something tawdry.

“It’s Joan Rivers,” he said.

Well, that was different! I grabbed two tickets and called my then fiancee. “Can you sneak out of work?”

I could hear his shock over the phone. My prim and proper hubby-to-be worked 60 hours a week and never snuck out of anything.

“We get to see Joan River’s brand new TV show being filmed!”

Twenty minutes later we were online at a theater in midtown. You see, we loved Joan. She was fresh, and bratty, and downright funny. We looked for Joan’s guest spots on Carson, because she made Johnny look insipid by comparison. He was California, urbane, smooth, a martini at the 19th hole kind of guy. She was city, New York City. Ethnic, glamorous, sometimes classless, but warm and welcoming. You always had a feeling you could talk to her.

And talk we did.

She warmed up the audience by asking if we had questions. I asked how Melissa was — inordinately proud she was going to my alma mater. Later, I said, I couldn’t see because of all the equipment in the way.

PA3 Mike Hvozda -“Would you like me to move the cameras for you?” she said deadpan. And we chuckled together at the idea.

Joan was approachable. She wounded with quick jabs of wit, but smiled so sweetly afterwards, you just had to forgive. She was everyone’s mother — and everyone’s friend, even if you only saw her on TV.

The reality show with Melissa and Joan living together was clearly, at times, a bit less than real. I couldn’t believe Joan really went in search of pot or lived in that small basement bedroom. But the love, frustration, and worry Melissa  and Joan exhibited for each other, showed us how great their relationship must be.

The road for Melissa is going to be hard. I know, I also lost a mother who was my best friend. Sweetie, we’re sending out a whole lot of love to you. Life will never be the same, but your mom taught millions of women, including me, to be strong just by her example.Taught us to not give up on our dreams, not fall down when people laugh at us instead of with us, to get up when life deals you lower than low blows, and that an artist can keep trying and inventing, and moving with the times, up until their last breath.

Being her daughter must now make you the strongest woman on earth.

Have courage.

In fact, that’s the word, I’d use to sum up Joan more than anything else. And wherever she is now, I know she’s talking, and laughing, and still showering this planet with her special brand of love.


Worries for Mark: Is Ukraine the start of WWIII?

Several days ago, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, was quoted as saying:

“Russian forces could take over Ukraine’s capital in two weeks’ time, if they wished.”

I keep thinking, in this 100th anniversary year of World War I, and 75th anniversary of World War II, how similar some of the current news reports are to the events proceeding both wars. I worry we may be heading in a similar direction.

Russian political nesting dolls

Matryoshka nesting dolls depicting Russian political leaders from Peter the Great through Yeltsin. The one on the far right is Rasputin. Personal collection & (c) 2014 Diana Belchase


See this article posted today: Ukraine: Russian forces in major rebel cities

Like Russian nesting dolls, the situation is as complex as Putin himself. He’s a man who has shepherded Russia into the modern era while bemoaning the loss of the USSR. How far will he go to return to the “good old days,” and will we be entering a new Cold War?

I remember hearing about people who couldn’t believe Hitler would encroach on his neighbors, that he would only go just so far, that he would keep to treaties made by predecessors, that he would keep to treaties he’d made himself. Napoleon was much the same. History is full of such men and stories about people who took first inches and then miles.

I mostly worry about my dear friend, Mark, who is living in Ukraine right now. He’s someone I love and thinking of harm coming to him is very hard to take. He insists he’s safe, that he lives in the capital far from the fighting.

Flag flying over the Ukraine Embassy in D.C. (c) Diana Belchase 2012


Then I remember the Jews who had a chance to leave Germany but thought they were safe. Or they ran, but not far enough, to Paris, or elsewhere in Europe. Not everyone had this opportunity, but there were many who did. I remember other stories of war. How capital cities got bombed. How children were issued gas masks. How we live in the age of anthrax and biological warfare.

I remember another dear friend, Sandy, calling me to say how upset he was for his son, a wonderful young man whose girlfriend had been on the airplane the Russian sympathizers shot down. The anguish in his voice so deep, because he couldn’t take this pain away from his son or the girl’s parents.

Washington, D.C. is rife with talk — none of it good. It’s whispered at PTA and church where insiders murmur about meetings they’ve attended here and abroad. When I ask them about Mark’s safety, they say to me, he should get out.

I don’t want to be involved in a war. I have no answers. But I want to scream at my friend, run while you can, before the bombs hit, before the cities close, before there is no choice. He laughs at my fears. He tells me he’s fine.

Perhaps I’m wrong. I pray to God, I am.

But, I worry, still.

Louise Penny’s Night with the Monks: The Beautiful Mystery

The amazing, fantastic, incredible, Louise Penny sat down with me and let me into the secrets behind her Agatha Winning novel, The Beautiful Mystery. This is one of my funniest interviews — due entirely to Louise’s dry, wonderful wit.

(if the video doesn’t load, please update your Adobe)

During the time it’s taken me to edit and post this interview, Louise has come out with not one, but two more books.  I know you’ll love them: The Beautiful Mystery (read an excerpt), How the Light Gets In (read an excerpt), and The Long Way Home.












The Fine Art of Tea

Today is Miss Dolly’s birthday! And to celebrate, you’re invited to a tea party — one that Miss Dolly Yates is hosting herself, as she explains what goes into a proper English tea.  So please join us as we discuss everything from tea cups, to lemon curd, to the actual types of tea itself. I know you’ll enjoy Miss Dolly in the video below as much as I do!

(If your video doesn’t run, please update your Adobe. Also, to see the full frame hit the large square box on the far right of the bottom black bar (to the right of YouTube) Thanks!)

Dolly Yates started her new career as a writer at the age of 90, and now has three books in print. She also tours the country giving inspirational speeches and is loved wherever she goes. Her three books are, Tales from the Teapot, One Heart Two Countries, and Share My Gold. 

I am so proud to call her my friend.

Happy Birthday, Darling!

Stay tuned for more from Miss Dolly coming soon.