Veteran Journalist, Award-winning TV Producer,
Bestselling Author & Cancer Survivor
Linda Ellerbee is an outspoken journalist, award-winning television documentary producer, writer and anchor, best-selling author, breast cancer survivor, mom, grandmother and one of the most sought-after speakers in America.
Ellerbee began her career over 40 years ago in 1972 at the Associated Press. In 1973, she was hired to be an on-air reporter at KHOU in Houston, Texas. Six months later, she was offered a job at WCBS, New York, as the “hard news” reporter for the 11pm newscast. In 1975, she moved to NBC (national) News where, as Congressional Correspondent, she spent years covering national politics.
In 1982, she pioneered the late-night news program NBC News Overnight, which she wrote and anchored with Lloyd Dobyns. Overnight was cited by the duPont-Columbia Awards as “possibly the best written and most intelligent news program ever.” In 1986, Ellerbee moved to ABC News to anchor and write Our World, a weekly primetime historical series. Her writing on Our World won her a national News & Documentary Emmy.
Lucky Duck Productions
In 1987, Ellerbee and Rolfe Tessem, her partner, quit network news to start Lucky Duck Productions, a New York based company that produces news, documentaries and other specials for broadcast and cable. Lucky Duck Productions began by producing documentaries for PBS. Then, in 1991, Lucky Duck began producing Nick News for Nickelodeon. Ellerbee is Executive Producer, writer and anchor. For the last 25+ years, Ellerbee and her work were also seen all over the television universe, as Lucky Duck Productions has produced and continues to produce specials for ABC, CBS, HBO, PBS, Lifetime, MTV, Logo, A&E, MSNBC, SOAPnet, Animal Planet and TV Land, among others.
2015 marked the 25th anniversary of Nick News, the longest running children’s news program in television history. Nick News was watched by more children than watch all other television news shows put together—and has earned honors traditionally associated with adult programming. Known for the respectful and direct way it speaks to children about the important issues of our time, Nick News has collected three Peabody Awards (including one personal Peabody given to Ellerbee for her coverage of the Clinton investigation), a duPont-Columbia Award and ten national Emmys for Outstanding Children’s Program.
In 2004, Ellerbee was honored with an Emmy for her series, When I Was a Girl, which aired on WE: the women’s entertainment network. In 2009, Nick News received the Edward R. Murrow Award for best Network News Documentary — and made history as the first children’s television program ever to receive this prestigious award. In 2011, Ellerbee was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Children’s Television at the annual Banff International Media Festival.
Also in 2011, at the annual Gracie Awards, Ellerbee received the Tribute Award, the highest honor given by the Alliance for Women in Media. On presenting the Gracie, former CNN anchor Aaron Brown said to a ballroom of a thousand women, “The two most important women in the history of television news are Barbara Walters and Linda Ellerbee. Barbara Walters made it possible for you to be on television news; Linda Ellerbee made it possible for you to be you on television news.”
Ellerbee’s first book, And So It Goes, a humorous look at television news, became an instant best seller, and a favorite among journalists. Her second book, Move On, containing stories about being a working single mother, a child of the ‘60s, and a woman trying to find some balance in her life, was also a best seller, as was her third book Take Big Bites: Adventures Around the World and Across the Table, a humorous account of her love of travel, talking to (and eating with) strangers, and, according to Ellerbee, “oh, just making trouble in general.” Her foray into books for children, an eight-part fiction series entitled Get Real about middle school students who start a school newspaper, won (and continues to win) her raves among young readers.
In December of 2015, Ellerbee announced her retirement from television but did not retire from her run as a popular and versatile speaker. Ellerbee still travels thousands of miles each year, inspiring audiences with her insight, while filling banquet rooms and concert halls with laughter. They come to hear her trademark wit and wisdom on everything from how to survive corporate America with your values intact to how to survive breast cancer and live to laugh about it (also, she often speaks to medical groups concerning healthcare from a patient’s point of view), and, in general, how to accept — even embrace — a changing world, perhaps even making a few changes yourself.
Although Ellerbee has won most of television’s highest honors, she says it’s her partner, her two children and four grandchildren who’ve brought life’s richest rewards. Her son, Joshua Veselka, is a journalist. Her daughter, Vanessa Veselka, is a novelist. Her grandchildren, Violet, Ruben, Gabriel and Milo, are noisy. Ellerbee lives in New York City and Massachusetts with Rolfe Tessem, her partner in life and work, and their two Greek rescue dogs, Daisy and Dolly.
CHANGE IS A FORM OF HOPE
Ellerbee uses her well-known wit and her personal stories to send a strong message that change, life’s only constant, need not be met with fear, that to risk change is to believe in tomorrow, and that you can indeed survive a changing world with your heart intact. She’s survived the trials of being one of the first women in her field, working for years in corporate America, raising two kids as a single mother, starting her own company, losing both her breasts to cancer, and overcoming her own pig-headedness (something she still has to work at). She shares her personal rules for surviving change, inspiring women (and men) to be strong, encouraging them to make noise, and urging them to do the right thing. In her extraordinary life and career, Ellerbee has learned that change is the norm, and that it’s better to make it than be caught by it.
SURVIVING BREAST CANCER TO LAUGH ANOTHER DAY
Ellerbee knows that cancer is a family disease, even a cancer that strikes mostly women. In her rightfully famous speeches on this subject, she describes her own journey through cancer, from the devastation of diagnosis, the loss of both breasts, walking through the dark valley of chemo, wrestling with the fear of death — and how good it feels to still be on the right side of the grass over 20 years later. She talks of dealing with the medical profession, family and friends — all of whom, even when well intentioned, occasionally seem misguided or absurd, if not downright silly. Ellerbee encourages women to become partners in their treatment, to stand up for themselves, to make a big noise, to fight — and fight back. She speaks directly to the hearts of women, sharing stories that make them laugh and make them cry, and then show them how to find the beauty — and healing powers — of laughter through tears. Life goes on. So can you.
HOW TO SUCCEED AND STILL HANG ONTO YOUR VALUES
How to build a strong career by doing it your way. How to find your own power. How to not lose yourself or your values as you rise in your work. How you can — and cannot — balance work and family. How you can manage to stay human by managing a company humanely. Ellerbee delivers a series of useful messages to employers and employees through plenty of humor and stories — from having a boss to being the boss. And still being able to face yourself in the mirror. What she offers is nothing less than a new template for a new century of working women — and men.
HOW TO RAISE A MEDIA-SAVVY KID
In the future, kids will learn to use the media that surround them as tools, or they will be tools of that media. Television. The Internet. iPhones. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Snapchat. Periscope. What's next? Parents and teachers need some help here. What is media literacy and how do you teach it to kids? Ellerbee, using (as always) humor and personal stories to make her points, offers insight, perspective and simple advice gained from speaking with (and listening to) kids for over 20 years on the critically-acclaimed and longest-running children’s news and documentary series in television history, Nick News with Linda Ellerbee…and from raising two media-savvy kids of her own. PLEASE NOTE: THIS SPEECH MAY BE TAILORED FOR EDUCATION GROUPS. Ellerbee will talk about how teachers can use media as a teaching tool and turn media from the enemy into the teacher’s friend.
AND SO IT GOES - ADVENTURES IN JOURNALISM
She began her career by getting fired from the Associated Press three months after getting hired — which turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to her career. From newspapers to networks, Ellerbee went from covering fires and parades to covering presidential campaigns and international terrorism, anchoring ground-breaking television series such as Weekend, NBC News Overnight, Our World, and Nick News with Linda Ellerbee, which, in its 25th year on the air, is television’s longest running news program for kids. She became known for her writing and for respecting her audience, and collected TV’s most prestigious awards along the way. Her best-selling book, And So It Goes, a humorous look at TV News, is still used as a journalism textbook over 25 years after it was published. Once upon a time, they called her an irreverent newcomer, then a seasoned veteran and now a pioneering female journalist. Throughout her career, Ellerbee has become famous for doing it her way. She’s had a helluva good time, and hopes that maybe, just maybe, she changed television news a tiny bit. Ellerbee, who still does it her way, also has a lot to say about journalism today and journalism tomorrow. Her commencement speeches to young journalism graduates are designed to encourage them to take their work seriously without taking themselves seriously, and to inspire them to make journalism better — because they can.
“Linda was terrific. Her story is truly inspirational – how she basically took lemons and made lemonade...We laughed, cried, smiled and totally related. Linda's no nonsense style taught us that change, no matter how uncomfortable, is for the better...it is all up to you. And so it goes...”
- Viking Sewing Machines, Inc. | New Orleans, LA
“Linda was amazing in every sense and I’ve received such rave reviews from our patients and others who attended. She was funny…she pulled at your heartstrings…some stories she told made you mad, then sad. She connected so much with the patients and that is probably the best part. She was the best guest we’ve ever had…”
- Cancer Institute of New Jersey | New Brunswick, NJ
“...thank you for the impressive message with which you launched our leadership celebration. Your candor, competency and frankness charmed students and adults alike...You clearly have a story to tell and you so obviously enjoy telling it. The decision to ask you to keynote the day was one of the best I may ever make in my tenure as Head of School.”
- Emma Willard School | Troy, NY
“Linda Ellerbee was a fantastic speaker. She was the most dynamic of all of our speakers, and the best moderator we could have had for the panel. Out of about 14 keynote speakers in two years, she is the only one to receive a standing ovation. She was fabulous, and also a real pleasure to work with.
- Zayed University | Dubai, United Arab Emirates