What Kind of Inside Access Did Brian Stelter Get for ‘Top of the Morning?’

By Chris Ariens 

Brian Stelter’s new book “Top of the Morning,” about the morning show wars, excerpted over the weekend in The New York Times Magazine and this morning in Playbook, is out tomorrow. To get an inside account, Stelter had to get inside the networks as the battles were waged in what would be a tumultuous year for all three networks.

So, what kind of access did he get to the shows, anchors and producers? In “A note about sourcing” at the end of the book, Stelter writes that his visits to the control rooms and studios, “shaped the book in big and small ways.”

“NBC, ABC, and CBS insisted that most of these visits be off the record, with the understanding that they’d decide which quotes could be placed on the record later,” he writes. “I agreed to the restriction, knowing it was the only way I’d receive any access to the otherwise sealed-off studios, control rooms and production offices of the shows.”

ABC scrubbed a few curse words from producers’ mouths but allowed virtually every other quote. NBC was more heavy-handed every one of [former “Today” EP] Jim Bell’s quotes from my control room visits were kept “off the record.” So were descriptions of Bell’s body language and his demeanor, descriptions of other staffers reacting to Bell, and some quotes from Ann Curry. NBC approved most of the rest of the control room material. Once in a while, on particularly sensitive days when the PR apparatuses of NBC and ABC denied access to their studios, I simply peered into their street-level windows like a tourist.”

More from Stelter tomorrow in Part I of our MediaBeat interview.