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What’s For Breakfast TV? Stunts & Celebrities and ‘Journalism Suffers’

The TV critics are assessing last week’s morning show stunts.

“Television news now feasts on fame, the gaudier the better, with journalistic credentials a mere afterthought,” writes Newsweek/Daily Beast’s Howie Kurtz, who talked to two former “Today” show hosts about last week’s ratings grabbers — including Sarah Palin co-hosting last Tuesday — a response to Katie Couric‘s fill-in on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

The star-making machinery has changed. When Today tapped Jane Pauley in 1976, she says, “I was 25 years old, four years out of college. I was extremely unknown.” Today alumnus Bryant Gumbel, who says he was “embarrassed” by the Palin stint, believes hosts “used to be judged not just on their popularity level but the extent to which they were capable of interviewing someone or reporting on a situation, or able to have a degree of gravitas. Now that is secondary to being popular.”

The New York Times’ Bill Carter and Brian Stelter sum up the week and the ongoing horse race between “Today” and “GMA,” revealing Katie Couric could return to ABC’s mornings:

Senior ABC staff members characterized NBC’s stunt bookings as desperate. But those at NBC suggested that ABC’s use of Ms. Couric, who left ‘Today’ in 2006, and the overall win-at-all-costs approach showed desperation. [GMA Senior EP Tom] Cibrowski disputed that and said Ms. Couric could fill in again in the future, perhaps when Mr. Stephanopoulos takes a vacation.

As of Thursday’s ratings, “Today” was holding off the hard-charging “GMA.” We’ll have Friday’s Fast National numbers this afternoon, and final weekly ratings for last week on Thursday.

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