TOP OF THE MORNING by Brian Stelter

TOP OF THE MORNING

Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV

KIRKUS REVIEW

A chronicle of the recent nasty struggles within and between Today and Good Morning America.

When New York Times media reporter journalist Stelter began his research, Today was nearing the end of its incredible run of well over 800 consecutive weeks as the No. 1 morning talk/news show. By the end, GMA had toppled Today, a show that one waggish GMA staffer quipped should be renamed Yesterday. The story commences with the decision of producer Jim Bell to remove struggling co-host Ann Curry from Today. As that story unfolds, Stelter periodically returns us to the earliest days of Today (1952: with Dave Garroway and chimp J. Fred Muggs) and to the beginnings of GMA in 1975. We learn about most of the previous hosts, the struggles within GMA to find an identity and the arrogance of Today’s production team—the we’ll-always-be-No. 1 mentality. Stelter also visits the histories of the CBS entry (never a threat—not so far) and to MSNBC’s Morning Joe, which the author clearly likes. But the focus throughout is on this past year: Matt Lauer’s gifts (and contracts), Curry’s problems with informal chitchat, Robin Roberts’ battles with cancer (struggles that ABC milked for ratings), the supreme talents of Katie Couric and Meredith Vieira, and the arrival of the talented Savannah Guthrie and its failure to stem the GMA tide. By the end, Bell is out as Today producer, GMA seems firmly in charge of the No. 1 spot, George Stephanopoulos and the GMA crew are all but singing “We Are Family,” Lauer is suffering from attacks on social media, and Today is hiring “branding” consultants to see what they can do about their fall from the top spot.

A troubling look inside an enterprise as vicious and internecine as a soap opera.

Pub Date: April 23rd, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4555-1287-4
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2013




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