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Alissa Krinsky

TVNewser’s 2013 Guide To Graduation Speakers

As is tradition here at TVNewser, we present to you our sixth annual list of who’s-speaking-where-and-when at America’s colleges and universities (in alphabetical order):

CBS’s Sharyn Alfonsi: University of Mississippi-Meek School of Journalism and New Media (MS), May 11

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour: The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (MD), May 23

ABC’s Dr. Richard Besser: University of South Carolina School of Medicine (SC), May 10

FNC’s Shannon Bream: Liberty University (VA), May 11

NBC’s Tom Brokaw: Loyola University New Orleans (LA), May 11

ABC’s Katie Couric: Randolph-Macon College (VA), June 1

ABC’s Josh Elliott: Quinnipiac University-The School of Communications and the School of Health Sciences (CT), May 19

NBC’s Richard Engel: Fordham University (NY), May 18

MSNBC’s Howard Fineman: University of Louisville-Brandeis School of Law (KY), May 11

FNC’s Bill Hemmer: Miami University-Farmer School of Business (OH), May 12

After the jump: Where Lemon, Raddatz, Scarborough, BriWi, and others will be speaking.

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Conan O’Brien to Headline 2013 White House Correspondents Dinner

All hail Team Coco!

Late night talker Conan O’Brien will be the entertainer at this year’s White House Correspondents Association dinner, to be held April 27 in Washington.

“Conan is one of television’s most innovative and influential talents and I am absolutely thrilled that he has agreed to be this year’s featured act,” said WHCA President Ed Henry in a statement.

“As social media has changed all aspects of the media business, Conan has embraced this shifting landscape to become a creative force both online as well as in the traditional television model. We are grateful that Conan also will be using that creativity to bring more attention to the WHCA’s commitment to helping needy journalism students.”

Proceeds from the evening – dubbed the “Nerd Prom” – will help fund more than $100,000 in WHCA scholarships.

As is tradition, the President and First Lady once again will be in attendance, with President Obama set to deliver his own set of jokes.

This also marks a return performance for O’Brien, who headlined the 1995 WCHA dinner.

Hoda Kotb on Life ‘Working Out the Way It’s Supposed to’

In a business known for big egos and petty jealousies, Hoda Kotb is a dose of Zen.

Life “is working out the way its supposed to work out,” Kotb tells TVNewser, reflecting on her 15th anniversary with NBC News. Co-anchoring the fourth hour of Today with Kathie Lee Gifford “fits like a puzzle piece, it just clicks…The show is a great place for me, and a happy place.”

It’s a gig she actively sought out. “I was always the one who waited to be noticed in life,” she reflects. But surviving cancer gave her a different perspective.  The same year of her diagnosis – 2007 – she decided to ask management for the fourth-hour job. “And I remember how small it felt, how little and insignificant after what I’d been through. I believe today that if I hadn’t gotten sick…I wouldn’t have had the guts to ask for it.”

The ability to appreciate life, to feel “joyful” as she says, also was the motivation behind her new book, Ten Years Later: Six People Who Faced Adversity and Transformed Their Lives.

The tome features the stories of  six people for whom adversity brought a silver lining. Kotb lives the lesson. When she walks in to 30 Rock each morning, “I feel blessed and lucky.”

And that means she doesn’t pine for Savannah Guthrie‘s position. A Guthrie fan, Kotb says she did not lobby for that spot when it opened up last year, happy with her current gig and Read more

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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