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CNN's Alisyn Camerota Tackles Integrity of News Industry in Debut Novel

People

At 15 years old Alisyn Camerota decided she wanted to see herself on the small screen as a television reporter. Alisyn has dedicated over 25 years of her life to the news industry. All this experience is what influenced her to write a novel based on her own life about the ins and outs of being a successful woman in a male dominated career.


Alisyn has worked with many different news programs including NBC, ABC and most notably FOX where she worked for 16 years. After leaving them in 2014 she began her career at CNN where she is flourishing as a co-anchor on New Day. She has covered some of the most talked about stories in the media including the Pulse nightclub shooting and the attacks in Brussels and Paris.

Camerota’s first book is a fictional story inspired by the events of her lively career. The protagonist, Amanda, deals with similar things that Alisyn herself has dealt with in this line of work including a presidential campaign with a TV celebrity and waking up before the sun goes up everyday. Below is our inside scoop on Alisyn’s new book.

Amanda Wakes Up

1. What inspired you to put the pen to paper on this subject of cable news?

I've always been struck by the funny, juicy, and important things that happen behind the scenes at every TV network, off the air – all the crazy characters and decision-making and relationships that the viewer never sees. Ever since sitting in my first story pitch meeting years ago, I've thought: if only the audience could see this. So those are the things I've tried to capture in the book.

2. What are your favorite things about your job?

I love the front-row-seat-on-history I get as a journalist. I love having access to powerful people and asking them questions and getting them to explain themselves. I love having a fresh opportunity every day to try to move toward solutions.

Alisyn Camerota

It's very rewarding when viewers come up and thank me for the work I do, which happens a lot. Still, the questions I get most often are: Where do you get your clothes? Do people do your hair and makeup every day? And what time do you wake up?

3. The book’s protagonist, Amanda Gallo, goes straight from the backwater of local TV news to becoming the face of a national morning show. What was your own journey like as a broadcast journalist?

My trajectory was more unconventional and circuitous than Amanda's. My first job was working for Ted Koppel's production company, helping to produce his primetime documentaries on ABC called The Koppel Reports. From there I became a reporter on the national crime show America's Most Wanted. I was the person who, after the fugitive was caught, would go into the jail cell and ask why they did it. Sitting across from murderers and rapists was baptism by fire for how to challenge intimidating people. From there, I became a correspondent on NBC's morning magazine show called REALlife. When that was cancelled, I did a short stint for about a year in local news in Boston and Providence. From there, I became the New England correspondent for the FOX News Channel, and ultimately a host on the morning show. I joined CNN in 2014, where I became the co-anchor of the morning news program, New Day, which you can watch from six to nine a.m. every day. Set your alarms!

4. Like Amanda, you have to start your day at the crack of dawn. What does your morning routine look like?

My alarm goes off at 3:15am and every morning it still surprises me. I'm still like, "what is that?" The time between 3:30 to 4:30 a.m. is one of my most intense hours. That's when I cram for the exam, catching up on all the developments that have happened overnight while I was sleeping (and nowadays there are a lot). God bless my producer, who comes in even earlier than I do to start prepping all the research I need for the show.

She and I begin exchanging emails at 3:30am and I send her requests for graphics, soundbites, facts and statistics — all the evidence I'll use to challenge officials who may not be interested in telling the truth. At 4:30am, I arrive, get changed into my on-air outfit, get into hair and make-up, stuff some food in my mouth and run to the set in time for the 6:00 a.m. start.

5. Sparks start to fly between Amanda and her co-anchor Rob on the set of Wake Up, USA! What was it like writing their romances?

The relationship between Rob and Amanda was fun to write because the chemistry of co-hosts is always a "thing": a tangible commodity that viewers pick up on. Spending hours next to someone first thing in the morning every day is a pretty intimate experience, even though it's in front of millions of people. You learn their mannerisms, speech patterns and moods. Plus, I was single during my first ten years in TV news, so, let's just say, I'd acquired some material to draw from in terms of the thrill (and the downsides) of office romances. Rob is a composite of several guys I've worked with at various stations — all of whom think he's based solely on them.

6. What’s it like to cover a political campaign, and was it strange to see some of your predictions come true in 2016?

If being a newscaster doesn't work out, I'm going to become a boardwalk psychic because I'm that good. It was frankly bizarre how many of the scenarios I'd written years ago in Amanda Wakes Up became reality during the most recent presidential election. Rarely a week went by that my editor, agent and I didn't exchange emails about one of these prescient situations with the heading "Whoa! Did you see what just happened?" But the truth is that I've realized, when you cover presidential elections, some issues and events come around again and again, and I think I fastened on them.

7. Amanda Wakes Up is a comedy, but Amanda also has to grapple with serious issues like fairness and integrity in news, and how to get the story right in a ratings-driven climate. Why did you want to write about these issues?

Journalism feels more important now than ever, and I think this is a good time to have a conversation about how and why we do what we do. There's a lot of confusion out there about what constitutes news and which outlets can be trusted. Having worked at four different networks, I've seen the difference in approaches and missions, particularly when it comes to ratings versus information and I wanted to tell that story. And what exactly does it mean to be an "objective" journalist? Amanda has to figure all that out.

8. What advice do you have for people — especially young women — interested in broadcast news?

If you're willing to work around the clock, get very little sleep, stand outside for hours in hurricanes and snowstorms, drop all your plans for breaking news, and for the first few years (at least) make poverty line wages, then broadcast journalism is the field for you. Oh, and a love of finding facts and searching for justice helps too. If those things appeal to you, being in broadcast news is the best job in the world.

3 min read
Culture

Please Don't Forget to Say Thank You

"More grapes, please," my daughter asked, as she continued to color her Peppa Pig drawing at the kitchen table.

"What do you say?" I asked her, as I was about to hand her the bowl.

"More grapes?"

I shook my head.

"Please?"

I stood there.

"I want green grapes instead of red grapes?"

I shook my head again. I handed her the bowl of green grapes. "Thank you. Please don't forget to say thank you."

"Thank you, Momma!"

Here's the question at hand: Do we have to retrain our leaders to say thank you like I am training my children?

Many of us are busy training our young children on manners on the other side of the Zoom camera during this pandemic. Reminding them to say please, excuse me, I tried it and it's not my favorite, I am sorry, and thank you. And yet somehow simple manners continue to be undervalued and underappreciated in our workplaces. Because who has time to say thank you?

"Call me. This needs to be completed in the next hour."

"They didn't like the deck. Needs to be redone."

"When are you planning on sending the proposal?"

"Did you see the questions he asked? Where are the responses?"

"Needs to be done by Monday."

Let me take a look. I didn't see a please. No please. Let me re-read it again. Nope, no thank you either. Sure, I'll get to that right away. Oh yes, you're welcome.

Organizations are under enormous pressure in this pandemic. Therefore, leaders are under enormous pressure. Business models collapsing, budget cuts, layoffs, or scrapping plans… Companies are trying to pivot as quickly as possible—afraid of extinction. With employees and leaders everywhere teaching and parenting at home, taking care of elderly parents, or maybe even living alone with little social interaction, more and more of us are dealing with all forms of grief, including losing loved ones to COVID-19.

So we could argue we just don't have time to say thank you; we don't have time to express gratitude. There's too much happening in the world to be grateful for anything. We are all living day to day, the pendulum for us swinging between surviving and thriving. But if we don't have the time to be grateful now, to show gratitude and thanks as we live through one of the most cataclysmic events in recent human history, when will we ever be thankful?

If you don't think you have to say thank you; if you don't think they deserve a thank you (it's their job, it's what they get paid to do); or if you think, "Why should I say thank you, no one ever thanks me for anything?" It's time to remember that while we might be living through one of the worst recessions of our lifetimes, the market will turn again. Jobs will open up, and those who don't feel recognized or valued will be the first to go. Those who don't feel appreciated and respected will make the easy decision to work for leaders who show gratitude.

But if we don't have the time to be grateful now, to show gratitude and thanks as we live through one of the most cataclysmic events in recent human history, when will we ever be thankful?

Here's the question at hand: Do we have to retrain our leaders to say thank you like I am training my children? Remind them with flashcards? Bribe them with a cookie? Tell them how I proud I am of them when they say those two magical words?

Showing gratitude isn't that difficult. You can send a thoughtful email or a text, send a handwritten card, send something small as a gesture of thank you, or just tell them. Call them and tell them how thankful you are for them and for their contributions. Just say thank you.

A coworker recently mailed me a thank you card, saying how much she appreciated me. It was one of the nicest things anyone from work has sent me during this pandemic. It was another reminder for me of how much we underestimate the power of a thank you card.

Apparently, quarantine gratitude journals are all the rage right now. So it's great if you have a beautiful, leather-bound gratitude journal. You can write down all of the people and the things that you are thankful for in your life. Apparently, it helps you sleep better, helps you stay grounded, and makes you in general happier. Just don't forget to take a moment to stop writing in that journal, and to show thanks and gratitude to those you are working with every single day.