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Alissa Krinsky

Al Roker on the Morning Show Wars: ‘We Are Coming Back’

This year, NBC’s Al Roker nears his 35th anniversary with NBC.  But that hasn’t changed his new-kid-on-the-block perspective.

“It’s still kind of surreal, in that you’re on this show that’s part of broadcasting history,” Roker told TVNewser in Chicago Tuesday while in town on a book tour.  “It’s still kind of heady. You get a front row seat to history, and you get to do cool stuff. And you get paid! That’s not bad.”

In his 17 years with “Today,” he’s nearly experienced it all, including years of soaring ratings, and, more recently, when the numbers have fallen back to earth. Roker chooses to find the silver lining.

“Every now and then, it doesn’t hurt to get a kick in the slats, to remind you that you gotta work hard, that you gotta do what you need to do,” says Roker. “Today’s” turbulent year has included slipping to second place after 15 years of being No. 1 and the messy departure a few months later of Ann Curry from the anchor chair.

“Was it difficult? Absolutely. But at the end of the day, you are defined by how you respond to tough times,” says Roker.

“And the good news is that we are coming back. The demos are responding and everything else will follow.”

After the jump, watch video of Roker discussing his tenure at NBC, his future in TV, and why he feels Willard Scott may have left the morning show game too soon.

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Al Roker On His White House Accident: ‘I’m Laughing All the Way to the Bank’

TVNewser caught up with “Today” show weatherman Al Roker in Chicago this morning. He’s on a book tour for Never Goin’ Back Winning the Weight-Loss Battle For Good. It’s about his battle to keep off the pounds following gastric bypass surgery.

Much more of our conversation tomorrow, including just how long Mr. Roker intends on staying with “Today.” First, Roker uses a food analogy to discuss how “Today” intends on getting back the hundreds of thousands of viewers lost in the past year. We also asked whether he was surprised that his post-surgery White House confessional on “Dateline” went viral days later.

WATCH:

Behind the Throne: White House Chiefs of Staff Talk with Former ABC’er for TV Special

The position of White House Chief of Staff may be the second-toughest job in the world.  It’s also the subject of a new documentary featuring insights from all 19 living former Chiefs.

Longtime ABC Newser Chris Whipple, now an independent producer, logged about 70 hours of interviews with members of this exclusive club for ”The Presidents’ Gatekeepers”. Viewers will hear from Chiefs ranging from Dick Cheney to Leon Panetta and Rahm Emanuel. Former presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush also weigh in.

Before leaving network news about two years ago, Whipple spent nearly two decades at ABC, serving most recently as EP of the “What Would You Do?” series.  Earlier, Whipple was a CBS News producer with”60 Minutes”.

“Gatekeepers” runs four hours, and is scheduled to air in July on Discovery Channel.

TVNewsers Meet in Boston to Remember Tip O’Neill

,TVNewser was in Boston this weekend as several TV news anchors and contributors took a trip down memory lane.

They gathered at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library for a panel discussion on the life of Tip O’Neill, the legendary former Speaker of the House who passed away in 1994. Sunday marked 100 years since O’Neill’s birth.

Charlie Gibson – who covered O’Neill in the eighties for ABC News – moderated the forum, which featured reminiscing and story-telling among those who also shared the Tip beat back in the day: Bloomberg’s Al HuntABC’s Cokie Roberts and her husband, writer-broadcaster Steve Roberts, and columnist turned “Morning Joe” contributor Mike Barnicle.

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, once a top aide to O’Neill, told the audience he was “overwhelmed to have the chance” to be on the Speaker’s staff.

Gibson called O’Neill “an American original” and the “most fascinating” person he ever covered.

The panel discussion was recorded for broadcast January 1 on C-SPAN3.

Making News Rather Than Covering It: Tales From Campaign 2012

Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, and Ricky Martin were just three of the numerous celebrity endorsers of President Barack Obama in 2012.  All appeared at re-election events, part of a meticulously organized entertainment publicity effort.

One of the key players in attracting talent and overseeing coordination was former GMA and 20/20 Senior Producer – and former CBS News consultant and NBC News producer – Eric Ortner (photographed at right with Jon Hamm at the Democratic National Convention in September).

Now a Los Angeles talent manager and tv/film producer, Ortner became co-chair of the campaign’s Entertainment Advisory Council. He tells TVNewser the celebrity mix was important in helping the campaign “build a network for voter registration and get-out-the vote-efforts” and to “engage and mobilize the audience”.

Otrner says his background as a tvnewser - who’d covered politics for the networks - was helpful. “The real benefit and brilliance” of the entertainment council effort, he reflects, ”was that celebrity surrogates provided media that the campaign didn’t have to buy.”

(Photo Courtesy of Eric Ortner)

Bill Plante: Morale at CBS News Is ‘Sky-High’

It’s no secret — to the satisfaction of innumerable CBS’ers — that the past year has marked a return to the network’s hard news roots.  The evolution began in February of 2011, when Jeff Fager became news chairman, and David Rhodes division president.

Just a few months later, Scott Pelley was named anchor of the CBS Evening News. A revamped CBS This Morning debuted six months later.

TVNewser caught up with veteran White House correspondent Bill Plante in Chicago as he covered his 12th presidential election night. Plante, who has been with CBS since 1964, is among those pleased with the newsier focus.

“Needless to say, the morale of the whole news operation has been sky-high since Jeff and David took over,” Plante tells us. ”It’s represented a new focus on news. And that really excited the people who came into this business to do news.

“And we do a lot more hard news than we used to, both in the morning and evening. And that makes those of us who’ve been in this business a long time really happy.”

Plante has covered every presidential election going back to 1968, and says the political beat is never dull. “Politics is about people and power, and how they relate with one another to achieve it, and what they do with it.

“It’s fascinating to watch. It never ceases to be interesting.”

(Photo: Alissa Krinsky)

For Melissa Harris-Perry and Ray Suarez, a Windy City Homecoming

For MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry, wrapping up her presidential campaign coverage in the Windy City was a trip down memory lane.  Several years ago, Perry taught political science at the University of Chicago, and through mutual school ties met the not-yet-famous Barack and Michelle Obama.

“I was here as a young, untenured faculty member,” Perry told TVNewser during an interview on Election Day. “And I can remember that [now-presidential adviser] Valerie Jarrett and [now-Ariel Investments CEO/Obama supporter]” John Rodgers would have African-American faculty over for dinner, just to kind of provide us with support. Now they are kind of the inside team in the Oval Office.”

It was during that time that Harris-Perry began providing political commentary for Chicago PBS station WTTW and CW affiliate WGN.  “In many ways, it’s when I fell in love with morning television.”

Harris-Perry, now a professor at Tulane in New Orleans, has hosted her eponymous weekend morning show on MSNBC since February.

Another former Chicagoan in town for Election 2012 was Ray Suarez, who reported for NBC O&O WMAQ for more than seven years, in the late 80s and early 90s. before leaving for Washington,

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Jake Tapper Is Ready for a Good Night’s Sleep

TVNewser caught up with ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper Tuesday afternoon in Chicago.

Tapper, who was in the Windy City four years ago covering Pres. Obama’s first election, was back again covering the re-election. It wasn’t clear that Obama would win until around 11pm, a change from ’08 when Tapper says, “We had a pretty good idea that Obama was going to have a good night, you could feel the momentum.” Tapper also says covering the campaigns this time around was “more of a grind.”

And now that it’s all over, he’s looking forward to a good night’s sleep, which probably won’t come tonight.

Ed Henry: ‘So Many People Who Criticize Fox News Don’t Watch Fox News’

The 2012 election is a new experience for veteran journalist Ed Henry: it’s his first as a reporter for Fox News.

For starters, the former CNN’er says he’s speaking to a larger audience.  It’s “gratifying how many Americans are watching.  Fox has connected.”

TVNewser caught up with FNC’s Chief White House correspondent today in Chicago, where he is preparing for the final night of a long campaign.

Henry joined Fox News during the summer of 2011, but says his journalistic perspective has remained the same. Reporters “should be tough but fair” to all public officials, “and that’s what I try to do.”

He says that while at CNN, his questioning drew criticism from Bush administration officials, and that he never got a sit-down interview with the President as a result. More recently, his queries have drawn ire from White House press secretary Jay Carney and from President Obama himself.

“I do not take it personally,” he says of the slings and arrows, “because I realize it’s just part of the job. An occupational hazard, I guess. You ask a tough question of the president, you throw him a hardball, you might get one back. I’m fine with that.”

He draws a distinction between the news side and the opinion side of FNC programming. Henry tells of bumping into Sean Hannity at a news event and joking with him to “‘stay away from me! I’m not taking a picture with you!’

  • Bonus video: Henry talks about how he uses Twitter on the campaign trail

“I like him personally,” says Henry. “But he’s got his thing at night. I’ve got my thing during the day.”

The Fox News brand often is unfairly judged, he believes. “So many people who criticize Fox News don’t watch Fox News.”

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Willie Geist Still a Man on the Go

Just a few weeks ago, TVNewser took note of the busy post-Olympics schedule maintained by MSNBC anchor Willie Geist.

And while the center of news may have shifted since – on to Tampa and now to Charlotte – looks like nothing’s really changed much for Geist. Fresh from morning patrol this week at the DNC, he headed over to a Charlotte recording studio to lay down track for an upcoming Discovery Channel special he’s narrating. It’s Geist’s first collaboration with the network.

The 9/11 Surfer features an exclusive broadcast interview with Pasquale Buzzelli, whose story of survival is one of the last to be widely reported. It airs on Discovery at 8pmET on September 11.

A preview clip, after the jump…

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