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Candy Crowley, veteran CNN reporter, takes on competitive Sunday morning slot

Veteran CNN reporter Candy Crowley joined the ranks of Sunday morning news anchors in February when she began hosting CNN's "State of the Union." Crowley does not fit the conventional mold for a Sunday morning cable show host, Ellen McCarthy writes. Here's a look at Crowley and other Sunday morning hosts.

A year ago, she wouldn't have dared to wish for it. "Or even thought of it," she adds. "People always used to say to me, 'Don't you want your own show? That'd be so cool if you had your own show.' I said, 'You know, it's not gonna happen. So -- no.' "

Mind you, this is the woman who hung a sign above her desk -- in lettering usually reserved for homespun sayings like "Home Is Where the Heart Is" -- that reads: "The Only Difference Between This Place and the Titanic Is That the Titanic Had a Band."

Optimism is not her forte.

When media blogs lit up with speculation that the "State of the Union" job would be Crowley's after John King announced he was leaving the show to take over a prime-time slot in January, what she wondered was: "Who makes this [expletive] up?" If people asked, she'd point out that there was a moment when Hillary Rodham Clinton seemed destined to become Barack Obama's running mate. " 'And then we found out they didn't even vet her! I just want to remind you of that,' " she remembers saying.

Plan A

In the past couple of years, Crowley had been more seriously considering an exit strategy than an anchor desk. "It's get on the bus, get off the bus. Get on the plane, get off the plane. Get in the hotel room, get out. Eventually, I was like, 'I don't want to do this anymore,' " she says. "I thought, 'What do I do after this?' "

But she should've known not to over-think it. That's the one piece of advice she always offers young people: "Don't plan too hard, because something much better might be out there."

Crowley didn't plot out any of what her career has become. Which is not to say that she didn't have a plan. She did: As she graduated from Randolph-Macon Woman's College in 1970, "I was wildly in love with this guy," she says. "I thought I would marry him, move to California, have five kids, iron his shirts and write the Great American Novel."

She recalls those dreams from a stool in the recently remodeled kitchen of her Bethesda rambler. The house is a showcase of family antiques, Asian art and memorabilia collected along her journeys with the press pool. Crowley, in chunky rings and a linen jacket, sits facing away from a lushly landscaped back yard, where two young men are doing maintenance on her lap pool. She was up before dawn for a 7 a.m. newscast but is still ebullient at noon.

As her friends are quick to gush, the newswoman is enormously likable -- warm, chatty and without pretension. She laughs heartily at her own jokes, throwing her head back and slapping the counter. In every situation she seems to lead with her humor -- a sharp wit that produces, as CNN President Jon Klein puts it, "some of the funniest e-mail chains you'd ever want to get hooked into."

When things went sour with the college boyfriend, Crowley, the daughter of a St. Louis furniture salesman and a homemaker, moved to Washington with a friend. Neither could "figure out what we could do with a bachelor of arts degree," but eventually Crowley was hired to help put out a newsletter at a chemicals trade association.

She also began freelancing for the National Education Association magazine, and at 22 she married a TV producer. He mentioned an opening with the channel's sister radio station and, thinking that journalism "would be fun," Crowley signed on to work a split shift producing traffic and crime reports during morning and evening drive times.

After a stint with another station, Crowley was hired by AP Radio Network as a general assignment reporter. But within a few years she became a mother to two young boys, and when her husband got a job in Iowa, she became a stay-at-home mom for six years. "I'm not sure you always appreciate those times when you're in them, but I look back and say to everybody, 'Take it off -- your career will find you. Trust me, when you go back, it'll find you.' "

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