Natalie Jacobson was a trailblazer, a tireless journalist and a trusted voice. But to so many viewers across New England, she was just Nat, a member of the family who appeared in their living rooms for more than three decades. That’s more than half of Channel 5’s 50-year history, a legacy she reflected on in a new memoir and during a recent visit to our studio in Needham.
“Channel 5 WCVB was my life for 35 years — 35 years. Most of my adult life,” she said. “We were TV people.
We weren’t stars. We weren’t celebrities. We were out and about in the communities every day and night.
We lived in the communities. We knew what struck people. ” Jacobson’s ” Every Life a Story ” is a look at her life story from an immigrant childhood in Chicago to making history as the first woman to anchor the evening news in Boston.
It was released this month. “I worked with the best. I worked with great leaders who allowed us to be the best that we could be,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson was a fixture on Channel 5 from 1972 to 2007, including many years anchoring beside her then-husband Chet Curtis. Together, they were known as “Chet and Nat. ” “We were married for 25 years,” she said.
“We had a wonderful relationship on and off the air. We somehow clicked with TV. We were a great team, and .
. . I’m sorry that he got sick later and died way too early of pancreatic cancer.
” One of the major stories that captivated New England was the birth of Nat and Chet’s daughter, Lindsay, in 1981. “There was some indication I might be pregnant. So, I went up Route 9 to my doctor, and he confirmed I was,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson said she bought a pair of booties at Bloomingdale’s, boxed them up and handed them to Curtis in the Channel 5 parking lot. “It was my signal that, ‘Yep, we’re having a baby!'” Jacobson said. “So I said, ‘You’ve got to promise not to tell anybody.
This is six weeks. This will be the world’s longest pregnancy. ‘ (He said,) ‘Oh, honey.
OK, I promise. I promise. ‘ Of course, he went back in (the station) and told everybody.
” In 2011, Jacobson was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame . One of the more noteworthy interviews of her Hall of Fame career was with Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate John Silber in 1990. “So, when we did the interview, I said to him: ‘Dr.
Silber, much has been written about you, these “Silber shockers. ” Here’s a chance for you to tell the viewers who you think you are. Tell us what you think are your strengths and what are your weaknesses,'” Jacobson said.
“So he went through his strengths, and they are considerable, and I enumerated them as I should. He deserved them. ‘And your weaknesses?'” “You find the weaknesses,” Silber said over 30 years ago .
“I don’t have to go around telling you what’s wrong with me. The media have manufactured about 16,000 non-existing qualities that are offensive and attributed them all to me. Let them have their field day.
You can pick any one of them. ” “The guy, he just lost it, and he was angry,” Jacobson said. “Now, if that was the very first time I ever interviewed him, I would have to think: ‘Hmm, is the guy having a bad day? Maybe I better not use this.
Maybe this wouldn’t be fair. Maybe it’s not his character. ‘ But I knew it was his character, and I knew he was an angry man.
And we used to talk about it, about: ‘Why are you so angry?'” Silber, a Democrat, was the front runner in the 1990 gubernatorial election and ahead in the polls just days before Election Day. But his campaign crumbled following his interview with Jacobson and Republican candidate Bill Weld went on to win the general election by four percentage points. “I was very uncomfortable that any interview that I or my team ever did would alter an election,” Jacobson said.
“That is not what we do and it’s not what we should do. But the fact that just illustrating his character — he illustrated his own character — changed it. I still was uncomfortable with it, but I knew it was honest and I knew it was fair.
” While she reflects on WCVB, Jacobson constantly shares credit for Channel 5’s success with her teammates, but many former coworkers cited her as a source of inspiration. For example, longtime news director Jim Thistle made it a point to be in the newsroom for Jacobson’s last day, despite a terminal illness. “She believes we could always do better, more, and that could drive you nuts, but by doing do that elevated us.
She challenged us individually and as a team to be the best that we could. The news department is better because of Natalie,” Thistle had said about her. “Can you imagine anybody saying anything better to you? It’s the nicest, most important affirmation of what you hope you did for all those years.
God bless him,” Jacobson said. Now 15 years into retirement, Jacobson’s favorite job is being a grandmother. “Lindsay, that famous baby we talked about, is now 40 years old and has a 6- and a 4-year-old,” she said.
“In Serbian, Grandma is ‘Baba,’ so we’ve had Baba Day every day since Olivia was born. Anyone who’s a grandparent — and if you’re not, look forward to it, it’s going to be great — it’s better than having your own kids in a way because you have time. “.