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.
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.
Universally loved, and, (especially at this time of year) drunk merrily and in excess, wine is the answer to much if not all our prayers, on a regular basis.
The wine industry also happens to be home to some major female leaders, and it's become apparent, that the barriers to entry women face in almost every other industry don't apply here, as long as you've the work ethic and brains behind your operation.
"This is a people's business," says Delia Vader, CEO of Viader Wines, who's vehement about the gender neutrality of the wine industry, and hopeful for it's future, (even with the hefty factors of global warming, and recent wildfires, contending with the grape-producing vines).
Naturally, we were all too excited to sit down with five leaders in the industry working throughout the globe, that are innovating and shaping the future vintages from California to Italy and beyond. Below are five such women, ranging from vineyard to store owners, and one woman who's completely shifting the way we think about wine consumption.
Francesca Planeta, Wine Director, Planeta Wines
Francesca Planeta has been a rising star on the Sicilian wine scene for the last few years. Planeta is devoted not only to promoting her own vineyard, but promoting all the wines of Italy's largest island, which is most famous for the wonderful, Nero D'Avola.
Sicily's wine scene veritably boomed around Planeta as she was growing up. So when she finally began working on the Planeta Wines vineyard in her early twenties, she quickly learned the nuances of the land and the grapes she would ultimately come to produce. “I had begun to help out at the winery, using a graphics studio to create the logo and the first labels, and then I returned to Sicily, during the time of that first harvest. (This) was the moment when I decided that I would take on the challenge of working with the business that bore our family name."
Given that the business was family owned, Planeta did not encounter any barriers to entry because of her gender, but instead made sure that women are integral to the process on the vineyard. “Women have a fundamental role in our business," says the winemaker. “They are entrusted with many responsible positions; from wine making to directing exports and from the hotels to the entire marketing and communications office."
A worrying factor for both Planeta and the women at the vineyard however is global warming, something which has plagued wineries across the globe in recent years. Given that the taste and production of wine depends heavily on its “terroir" (or, surroundings), changes in environment are immediately a factor for anyone in the industry to consider when its coming to harvest season. “It generally seems to us that global warming presents not only a problem of warming in itself," she comments. “But in extremes of weather phenomena, with heavier rainfall – when it occurs, and rather longer periods of drought. (However), living and working in the centre of the Mediterranean gives us better conditions and the last twenty years have shown greater climatic stability."
Selling upwards of 2.3M bottles of wine a year, her chief markets (apart from Italy), are the United States, Germany, England, and Russia, followed by Canada, Switzerland and Japan. And she recommends that for the chillier months, if you're drinking a Sicilian wine, to go for Merlot, Syrah, or Burdese.
Delia Viader, CEO, Viader Wines
Argentinian-born Delia Viader was in the midst of an M.I.T degree, with three children at home, when an opportunity arose to purchase a vineyard in Napa Valley. “The timing was perfect for relocating my very young family," she says, who quickly got to grips with their new surroundings as their mother began constructing a powerhouse wine team to launch Viader Wines.
It hasn't always been easy for Viader and her team however. Before the financial crash of 2008, Viader was sold in every state throughout the U.S, and exported to 24 countries abroad. Since the crash, and an arsonist fire at a warehouse of theirs containing the entire 2003 vintage, they've changed their business model drastically. Now, they sell 90 percent of their collections direct-to-consumer, with the remaining 10 percent sent abroad or to the bigger markets of New York, California and Texas.
She has also become naturally concerned by the Californian wildfires of late, and their threat to both the vines, and the warehouses where the barrels are kept. “The biggest impact on our vineyard has been the change of weather pattern we have been experiencing for the past 35 years that we can speak of," says the CEO. “We are learning a lot about how resilient affected vines can be, and how wine made from those grapes needs to be processed to perhaps reshape stylistic performance of the resulting wine. The winegrowers as an industry will be learning a lot from this."
Learning and innovating are at the core of Viader's vineyards, where her son, Alan is championing new ways to irrigate their 92-acres of land, and fine tuning an understanding of “the exact optimal time to harvest at each vines' peak ripeness." And while she may be the CEO, she heavily depends on him for his expertise and blending capabilities. “I am the owner and CEO but I call myself the wine mother because I am the mother of the vines (I had them planted myself, my way); the mother of the wine (I 'created' our Cabernet-based wine to be highly influenced by the terroir with a high dose of Cab franc and remain, highly influential at the final assemblage-blend); and I am the mother of the winemaker, my son Alan Viader."
What is Viader most likely to be drinking at this moment? “I am very susceptible to a vibrant Pinot Noir from Burgundy most times," she says. “But my choice really depends on two variables: the food I am going to have and the company, the people I am going to share that bottle of wine with. I love harmony in the wine, the food pairing and the conviviality that springs from sharing a great wine."
Julia Jackson, Propietor, Jackson Family Wines
As one of the largest family-run wine groups in the U.S, The Jackson Family has garnered quite a name for itself. Leading the way within the group is Julia Jackson, daughter of mother Barbara Banke and Jess Jackson who built the group up from the ground, which is now worth an estimated $2.3 billion.
Today, their portfolio boasts wines from 52 wineries throughout the world, and integral to that is building relationships from within and amalgamating abroad. For Jackson, that means working in almost every facet of the business in order to cover all the projects she wishes to pursue. “I wear a few hats in my family business," she comments. “I'm spearheading my first acquisition project in another country, (and) I work with our international sales team to be one of the faces for Jackson Family Wines." On top of this, she's also involved with the group's environmental and philanthropic efforts, which, given the wildfire situation in California, will be work much needed in the years to come. “All my philanthropic efforts are focused around our environment and I created a charitable program that gives grants to women within the eco-space through our Santa Maria based winery Cambria."
Jackson's favorite wine at this time of the year? Gran Moraine from Willamette Valley Oregon.
Hortense Bernard, General Manager, Millesima Wines
Hortense Bernard was working with global industry leaders Moet Hennessy Diageo in Paris as a brand manager before she made her big move to the U.S. Now, she stands as one of the youngest female General Managers in the world of a large international firm, atop the Millesima USA group.
Millesima, a leading retailer in Europe, who branched into he U.S in 2006, owns upwards of 2.5M bottles of fine wine that are housed in the company's cellars in Bordeaux, France, (which is also the largest AOC vineyard in the country).
Bernard, who had her first glass of wine at eight years old, works primarily with direct-to-consumer retail and educating the U.S market about Bordeaux wines from their shop on the Upper East Side here in New York. "My goal is to educate as much as I can," she says. "In store, we speak about Bordeaux, and try to explain (because Bordeaux wine can be really complex), the wine."
"When I arrived here, I didn't know anything about American consumption," she laughs. "So it took me quite a bit to learn about it and understand how Americans see wines, and what they mean when the ask for a Chardonnay."
On top of chatting with customers, Bernard plays host to a lot of cultural events throughout the city, accompanying her wines whenever there might be a chance to express the history and significance of the wine for both France, and the industry at large.
So naturally, when asked what she'll be drinking on the celebratory occasions of December, it will be a big full-bodied Bordeaux " because that always takes me back (home)."
Marian Leitner, Founder, Archer Roose
Once it dawned on Marian Leitner that Millennials were drinking more wine than beer, she saw an opportunity to modernise the way we purchase, consume and enjoy wine.
"In the U.S, you actually pay more for the shipping and the packaging than you do for the wine itself," says Leitner. "So I started to ask why and learn more about the alternative packaging market."
Branching away from bottles, Leitner looked to packaging wine in every way beer is packaged - from cans and kegs, and then also, in boxes.
"You have to separate consumers into two buckets - the super high-end collectors, who make up less than 1 percent of the population, and then you have people who are drinking, "value" wines. And then the rest of America are basically beer drinkers."
Upon the realization that Millennial wine drinkers are more than beer drinkers, she also came to understand that they're also very brand-loyal. Brands that represent qualities and values they share, are the ones they're consuming the most. "So we decided to leverage the alternative packaging movement (which is keg, can and box), to cut through all the noise of the bottles in the wine store, and really connect with consumers." In doing so, she launched the company, Archer Roose Wines.
This move means, that apart from the ultra-hip way the wine is presented, you're also economizing. One box of Archer Roose wine contains the equivalent of 4 regular bottles. And inevitably, the kegs contain a huge volume.
Wine kegger, anyone?