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Born in Dubuque, educated in Cedar Falls. How did Mark Steines get to be one of the top entertainment journalists in the nation?

Steines, an Emmy award-winning journalist, is now in his ninth season with Entertainment Tonight, billed as the top-ranked syndicated entertainment show in the world. It is his first as anchor alongside Mary Hart.

His rise from an internship at KWWL in Waterloo to ET has been remarkable.

Steines was born and raised in Dubuque, and came to the area when he enrolled at the University of Northern Iowa on a full football scholarship.

While we couldn't get to Steines for an interview for this article, Grant Price, his old boss at KWWL, talked about Steines' early days.

"He was one of many talented young people who came through that McElroy internship program at Channel 7. Mark was a UNI student and he was interested in sports. At that time we were selecting three students - two in news and one in sports - from broadcast news programs at Iowa colleges and universities, each term for a semester of on-the-job experience in our department," Price said.

Steines was selected for the sports internship. "He did very well," Price said. But there were no openings in sports at KWWL when he graduated in 1986 from UNI. "But we had a beginning spot in news and Mark accepted it. His assignments tended to be more on the photo side - shooting video, but he also developed into a competent reporter. He was willing to do whatever was needed, but his real interest was in sports."

Price tells of a "funny thing that happened on the way to a spectacular career" for Steines.

"He was assigned to work with Ron Steele (KWWL anchor) covering the Republican National Convention in New Orleans. A rumor started circulating that Tom Cruise - yes, THE Tom Cruise - was attending the convention. Some gossip sheet picked it up and it really took off." Turns out it was Steines.

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"There was a striking resemblance," he said. "At the time, Mark's news director wasn't too happy about what he was hearing back from New Orleans about his photographer's celebrity status."

Afterwards, Price said Steines took it all in stride, coming back to do his more "mundane" assignments.

Steines continued to look for a job in sports reporting, and finally found one in a small market in Springfield, Mo., where he served as sports anchor from 1988 to 1991.

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Obviously, he did well there, because his next job was at KCAL-TV in Los Angeles, the number two market in the country. There his sports reporting got him exposure that led to assignments from ESPN, and ultimately a correspondent's role on Entertainment Tonight.

He has worked his way up through the ranks of ET, initially joining in 1995. He also continues to serve as the editorial voice for a series of VH1 specials, including the "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle," "Greatest TV Rock 'n' Roll Moments," "The 25 Sexiest," "Greatest Grammy Moments" and "Hot Couples."

Unfortunately, he was unable to be reached for an interview, but Steines has been back to Cedar Falls for fund-raising events over the years.

Steines is married to former Miss America, Leanza Cornett, and their have two children.

"It probably didn't hurt that he looked a lot like a movie star, but there was a lot more substance to Mark than that," said Price.

- Nancy Raffensperger Newhoff, Courier managing editor

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