- The Washington Times - Friday, January 17, 2003

Beauty, brains and talent make for a heady combination in the world of network news, a fact that has catapulted NBC's Norah O'Donnell to the front lines in her field.

Saturday night, her friends gathered at the Kalorama home of lobbyists Jeffrey Weiss and Juleanna Glover Weiss to congratulate the brunette reporter on her appointment to NBC's congressional beat.

Good thing it was a slow news day, because some of the city's premier scribes were off-duty, mixing it up with young reporters and even an intern or two. Among them: Ms. O'Donnell's NBC colleague Andrea Mitchell (with hubby Alan Greenspan in tow), ABC News White House correspondent Ann Compton, CBS reporter Rita Braver, syndicated columnist E.J. Dionne, Newsweek's Howard Fineman and Fox News senior White House correspondent Jim Angle.

Strictly political types were clinking martini or champagne glasses on Ms. O'Donnell's behalf as well, including White House political director Ken Mehlman, Homeland Security Department press secretary Gordon Johndroe, Democratic firebrand Donna Brazile and Republican lawyer C. Boyden Gray. Ms. O'Donnell's husband, Geoff Tracey, may have been the odd man out despite being rather celebrated in his own right as the proprietor of Chef Geoff's, his popular restaurant in Wesley Heights.

Ms. O'Donnell, dressed in a sleek black blouse and black pants, chatted up well-wishers while others testified to her unerring news sense.

Ms. Compton, the first woman to be named a full-time network White House correspondent, recalled meeting the guest of honor in a group of young female reporters.

"Norah has an incredibly focused sense of hard news," Ms. Compton said. "She stood out."

The two would eat lunch together, with Ms. Compton picking up the tab until her young colleague began earning a regular paycheck. Today, they remain friends, even while hustling for competing networks.

"I'm not done with my job yet," Ms. Compton pointed out with a grin.

The hostess, a former press secretary for Vice President Richard B. Cheney, stood at the door with constantly replenished cocktail shakers to greet each arriving guest. She toasted Ms. O'Donnell as a reporter "always willing to take the toughest gig."

"I've watched her make sublimely sophisticated career moves that have led to this. It's only the beginning," Mrs. Weiss said.

For Ms. O'Donnell, the new assignment is a "dream come true."

"I'm thrilled to be back on the Hill, trying to break news," she said. "It's where I started and where I hope to continue to do a good job with NBC."

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