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Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV Hardcover – April 23, 2013

3.8 out of 5 stars 163 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Near the end of this fight-to-the-death story of Good Morning America versus the Today Show, Stelter writes, “relatively few people knew who the warring executives were.” And that’s part of the problem with this book. Although Stelter, a media reporter at the New York Times, makes a heroic effort to identify the suits, it’s still fairly easy to mix up the players, whose machinations make up a big part of the story. More familiar, of course, are the stars of the broadcasts: Matt Lauer, Ann Curry, Robin Roberts, et al. The focus here is on the decision (dubbed Operation Bambi) to get Curry out of the chair next to Lauer, who felt no chemistry with her. At the same time, Today, which had been number one in the ratings for more than 800 weeks, was beginning to hear the footsteps of second-place GMA closing the gap. After Today dumped—excuse me, promoted—Curry and Robin Roberts fell ill with a blood disease, the battle became more pitched. Stelter injects himself into the narrative, which aims for a breezy tone (“some crazy shit is going down”). With more than 350 interviews under his belt (though no Lauer or Curry), he does have insider props. In the end, however, while this account does have its fascinating moments, they would have easily fit into a long magazine article. Give this to fans of Bill Carter’s The Late Shift (1994) and The War for Late Night (2010) about a similar battle for nighttime ratings supremacy. --Ilene Cooper

About the Author

Brian Stelter is a media reporter at The New York Times, where he writes about television and the web, both for the newspaper and for the blog Media Decoder. He was a subject of the 2011 documentary Page One: Inside the New York Times. Before joining the Times in 2007, he was the founder and editor of TVNewser, the preeminent blog about the television news industry. He sold TVNewser to Mediabistro in 2004 and ran it until his 2007 graduation from Towson University.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 1 edition (April 23, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1455512877
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455512874
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (163 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #413,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'd imagine that there are two distinct audiences for Brian Stelter's new book, Top of the Morning, and I'd think they'd have very different reactions.

The first audience, of which I consider myself a member, might be called the "media insider crew". Not only comprised of media professionals (I am not one), this audience consists of those who, perhaps like Mr. Stelter did years ago, rush to consume any media about the media. This audience would no doubt already be intimately familiar with the saga of Ann Curry's departure from Today, due to Joe Hagan's article, Howard Kurtz's interview, and Mr. Stelter's book adaptation in the New York Times Magazine last Sunday. This audience would have cut its teeth on the classics of the genre such as "The War for Late Night" and "The Late Shift".

The second audience might be called the "Barnes & Noble crew". This audience would consist of those who might spot the book at their local bookstore and think, "A book about morning TV! I love GMA! Let's check it out."

As I mentioned, these two audiences will, in my opinion, have very different reactions.

Let's start with the Barnes & Noble crew. If you're in this group, you'll be fascinated. The book reads like a person-to-person discussion of the goings-on in morning TV. Booking wars, job interview lunches, control room conversations. The tone is conversational, the content free-flowing and organized in somewhat of a stream-of-consciousness manner. Reading this might indeed convert some in this audience to the other group and get them as hooked on media inside information as Mr. Stelter himself is.

Now the media insider crew. Here, the reaction might be more mixed.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you have at all followed the war of the morning shows, especially after the public beheading of Ann Curry on live television, you will enjoy this book immensely. You probably won't find any new bombshells because most of the juicier parts of the book were leaked well ahead of its release. But you'll be able to fit a few more pieces of the puzzle together and form a better understanding of what really went on in the days leading up to Ann's dismissal and the fall of one television's greatest programs.

Ann Curry fans looking for some kind of sympathy from the author need look elsewhere. While I don't think Brian Stelter hates Ann, he forthrightly points out her weaknesses as co-host and reveals her painful blunders. As is the case with a lot of people, I think Stelter likes Ann and respects her as a journalist but knew she was wrong for the role. That is one part of the book that surprised me. Ann, too, questioned her ability to pull it off.

But Stelter knows how to give the TODAY Show viewer what they want. He answered many of the questions I had been asking for months. He even pointed out something I thought no one else caught. During the agonizing 4 minute and 30 second self-firing, Matt Lauer said "Can we just say this isn't goodbye?" It was at that moment that Ann looked down and sarcastically said "Nah." Almost as if she were saying "Yeah right. I'm being FIRED Matt. This is most definitely goodbye."

It will also give the GMA fans what they have known all along. They all really DO like each other and fought hard to put on a fun show. It's not my taste, but you have to give them credit.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I read a lot of books about television--hundreds of them--and this is one of the most annoying I've ever set in front of my eyes. The writer is so quirky and self-inflated that he uses ridiculous phrases like "Consider, gentle reader,...." He acts all-knowing when at the end of the book he admits that he hasn't talked with the two main subjects of the story (Matt Lauer and Ann Curry), adding that, "Some quotes attributed to Today and GMA hosts and their bosses were recounted later by their colleagues." Namely, they aren't really direct quotes, which is a no-no in true journalism. The book is a recreation of half-truths and hearsay.

It rehashes much of what we already know about the "morning wars" with none of the finesse of a Bill Carter. There is very little new here unless you know absolutely nothing about television or have ignored the media stories of the past 18 months. Instead we get snarky pseudo-analysis from a guy who thinks this is an exercise in creative writing. I should be surprised he writes for the New York Times but considering how bad that paper has gotten (only hiring reporters that will communicate the paper's bias) this book reflects everything that's wrong with journalism, and especially media reporters, today. While Stelter picks at GMA for being tabloid and entertainment, in truth he does a worse job at choosing pop culture hype over journalism (doing things like mentioning rumors of Lauer's affairs).

One of the major problems is that the author from the start overstates the importance of morning network TV to America. Very, very few people actually watch these shows (on an average morning the top three shows combine to attract less than 5% of the population!), yet the author says that the changes at Today were "big news...
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