Lisa MacKenzie: Why don't you start at the beginning and tell us about what got you into journalism?
Lara Spencer: I've had this [distinctive] voice since I was a little girl. I was made fun of by boys in my fifth-grade class. I had a teacher, an early career sponsor if you will, named Mrs. Foster who really turned a negative into a positive and said, "Screw those boys. Your voice is distinctive. It's unique and you should celebrate it." She planted a seed and I never forgot it. That seed blossomed, and it became a passion. It gave me something to focus on. It was something that no one else had. I never let go of it, thanks to Mrs. Foster.
And that got you into journalism?
Yeah, so all through high school I decided this is what I'm going to do, and I never wavered. I still have the paper from junior year. I was going to be Barbara Walters (and then shifted to Diane Sawyer). I worked on the papers and went to Penn State University on an athletics scholarship, as you said, diving off many cliffs throughout my career. Sometimes not successfully. But that's all part of the journey.
Right out of college, I applied for the NBC Page Program, which, if you know any young women or men who are interested in any part of the media industry, it's an incredible opportunity. Because even though I knew what I wanted to do, you really don't know. You should know every area of your business. It's basically a paid internship. You go from the news department, to the marketing department, to the sales department. When I got to sales, they hired me … but it was a blessing and a curse because I knew I wanted to be on the newsroom floor. So every day at lunch, and after my day was done pushing papers, being an assistant for the sales department, I would go down to the newsroom, so much that the news director at the time genuinely thought I worked there.
My advice to anyone is number one, find a passion. I happened to be lucky to find it early. it's never too late to listen to yourself, because it's a long journey. Being in that sales department, I knew that was right for me. I was intuitive enough to know it was a great job, very lucrative, but it just wasn't who I was.