ABC managed to take a book full of juicy gossip about the morning show wars and ignore all the interesting information. Good Morning America's Dan Harris on Tuesday talked to Brian Stelter, author of Top of the Morning. Yet, Harris spent more time talking about the rise of Stelter, offering such dull questions of the author as "Do you ever sleep?" and "What made you pick this subject for your book?"
Perhaps Harris didn't want to talk about how Stelter quoted an NBC executive deriding the "the crap on ‘G.M.A.'" In the book, the writer condescendingly described the ABC program: "The cast was more bubbly and the stories more gossip-laden. And short: If you didn't like what they were covering, you could just wait 45 seconds and the cast would be on to a Chihuahua playing pool." Harris made no mention of the upheaval at NBC after Ann Curry's removal from the Today show.
Stelter's writing has been incredibly detailed and harsh in describing the tumult at NBC. In the book, he explained:
Many executives at the network never grasped how profoundly hurt and humiliated Curry remained — not just by her televised dismissal but by all the backstage machinations that led to that fateful morning. Curry felt that the boys' club atmosphere behind the scenes at "Today" undermined her from the start, and she told friends that her final months were a form of professional torture. The growing indifference of Matt Lauer, her co-host, had hurt the most, but there was also just a general meanness on set. At one point, the executive producer, Jim Bell, commissioned a blooper reel of Curry's worst on-air mistakes. Another time, according to a producer, Bell called staff members into his office to show a gaffe she made during a cross-talk with a local station. (Bell denies both incidents.) Then several boxes of Curry's belongings ended up in a coat closet, as if she had already been booted off the premises. One staff person recalled that "a lot of time in the control room was spent making fun of Ann's outfit choices or just generally messing with her." On one memorable spring morning, Curry wore a bright yellow dress that spawned snarky comparisons to Big Bird. The staff person said that others in the control room, which included 14 men and 3 women, according to my head count one morning, Photoshopped a picture of Big Bird next to Curry and asked co-workers to vote on "Who wore it best?"
Yet, Harris steered clear. He offered yawn-inducing descriptions as this: "After months in the morning news trenches, Stelter says he is as enthusiastic as ever [about the network programs]."
Other, more salacious topics, covered in the book were highlighted in an Entertainment Weekly review. Reporter Henry Goldblatt wrote, "Stelter seems to have a vendetta against Lauer, dredging up accusations of extramarital affairs without providing additional evidence (he points out only that 'some executives at NBC told me they believed the rumors.'").
George Stephanopoulos teased the segment by asserting, "You know, here at GMA, we report the news, rarely trying to find ourselves the center of it."
Fortunately for Stephanopoulos, Harris ignored all the news in Stelter's new book.
A transcript of the April 23 segment, which aired at 8:38am ET, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, here at GMA, we report the news, rarely trying to find ourselves the center of it. But a new book from New York Times media writer Brian Stelter has done just that. He came to all the morning shows asking for a peek behind the scenes to see what it takes to put on a mix of breaking news, information and fun for two hours every day. ABC's Dan Harris spoke with him.
DAN HARRIS: Every day in America, 13 million people wake up with a morning news show on one of the major networks. They're powerful and profitable, the subject of big budget Hollywood movies and now the focus of a high profile new book out just today by New York Times reporter Brian Stelter.
BRIAN STELTER: Morning shows are the only times a day that we let strangers into our house when we're basically naked or wearing very few clothes. A lot of times, we're watching in bed or bleary-eyed. And yet, we're letting these people into our homes. It's such an intimate thing to do.
HARRIS: Stelter has been obsessed with TV news, especially the morning shows, ever since he was a kid. Your mother used to wake you up every morning to watch the news?
STELTER: My mother would wake me up every morning for school. And she'd watch Good Morning America. And I'd always watch the Today show. And we'd always fight about it.
HARRIS: We should edit that part out.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, America. Look who's back!
NORAH O'DONNELL: Welcome to CBS This Morning.
MATT LAUER: And Good morning. Welcome to Today on a Monday morning.
HARRIS: What made you pick this as the subject for your book?
STELTER: I realize the morning shows have never been written about in a big book form. These shows are the profit centers of their networks. These shows basically subsidize the rest of the news coverage. Between NBC, ABC, and CBS, there's a billion dollar of advertising revenue at stake every year.
HARRIS: As a freshman in college, Stelter started a blog about the broadcast news business called TV Newser. Right out of college, Stelter was scooped up by the New York Times, as seen in the documentary Page One. We see you constantly looking at your phone. Constantly Tweeting. Constantly writing. Do you ever sleep?
STELTER: I actually sleep a lot. I sleep nine, ten hours a day sometime.
HARRIS: Stelter certainly experienced a lack of sleep when he embedded at the morning shows for this new book.
STELTER: One of the best days I had was an overnight shift at Good Morning America. Because, the work that happened between, like, 7:00pm. And 7:00am. Was astonishing. I learned that every second of the show was obsessed ahead of time. More so than I thought it might have been.
HARRIS: By the way, you could have called me and I would have told you this. After months in the morning news trenches, Stelter says he is as enthusiastic as ever.
STELTER: I'm probably more of a fan of the shows than when I started.
STELTER: Because I realized how much harder it is than I thought. I mean, these anchors are always tired. They're always exhausted. And yet, they make it look so easy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, Brian, we're getting nine, ten hours sleep a night.
LARA SPENCER: No. That sounds real good!
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Dan Harris for that.