Despite years of experience on morning television, Alisyn Camerota is still not used to her 2:30 a.m. alarm.
“It shocks me every single morning,” Camerota, the newly-minted anchor of CNN’s “New Day,” joked to TVNewser in an interview after her show Tuesday. “Every single morning I think, ‘what is that sound?'”
Camerota is the first to admit not everyone is cut out for the “physically grueling” lifestyle of a morning news anchor. But she says there’s no time of day she’d rather be on the air than the morning hours — “where all the action is,” as she puts it.
“More and more, that’s where everybody’s getting their news. You turn on your news in the morning, you’re doing other things, but you have it on in the background while you’re getting ready, and that’s your news hit for the day,” Camerota says. “I don’t know many people anymore who sit down at 6:30 to watch the evening news. But morning newscasts are appointment viewing in that you always just have it on.”
“New Day,” which is approaching its two-year anniversary, has shown its own “appointment viewing” potential of late. Last month, the show posted its highest-ever ratings in both total viewers and the A25-54 demographic, growing +87% and +86%, respectively, year-over-year. CNN has been in second place, behind “Fox & Friends,” for four straight months in total viewers and seven straight months in the demo.
Camerota, who was named co-anchor of “New Day” last month, replacing Kate Bolduan, says she is less concerned about Fox and MSNBC’s numbers and more concerned with what ratings tell her about her own show.
“I look at them and analyze them. Not in comparison to our competitors, but in comparison to ourselves,” she says. “What I see in the numbers is that viewers respond to news. When we have news — and we have news all the time — people want the latest, they want the facts, they want to know how it affects them.”
To that end, she spends the early-morning hours before the show researching and studying, particularly from 3 a.m. to 4 a.m., which she calls her “cram for the exam time.” She writes questions for her guests ahead of time, keeping in mind a loose arc of where she wants the interview to start and where she wants it to end.
“I prepare a lot. I don’t like to wing it,” Camerota says. “I like to think about the different answers that my guests might give, I like to have a lot of research, I like to look back at things they’ve said in the past.”
Camerota, who joined CNN in July after 16 years at Fox News, says she was immediately drawn to CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker‘s “cool, innovative” approach to mixing longform programming with traditional newscasts.
“From the first minute that I met Jeff Zucker and realized his enthusiasm, and his vision for storytelling and what CNN was going to look like, I was in. I wanted to work here after I met him,” she says. “CNN is just about smart, interesting programming. It can be in a four-minute straight news segment, it can be in an hourlong Morgan Spurlock immersive journalism show. It’s all the same to me, it’s just a different form of storytelling.”
Storytelling techniques are not the only thing that has evolved over the course of Camerota’s time in television. She cites the careers of women like Katie Couric, Meredith Vieira, Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer as “great female success stories that have changed the game.” Case in point: during our interview with Camerota, reports were swirling that Savannah Guthrie has emerged as “the top replacement” in the event Brian Williams does not return to NBC “Nightly News.”
“I feared that we were just going to have a talk about what men would be taking over if Brian Williams were to step aside, so I think that the times have changed,” she says. “Now there would be women’s names in that ring.”
And while she’s happy Couric and Sawyer have blazed a path for women on the evening news, Camerota herself says she’ll stick with early hours.
“Morning news is where funnier, goofier things are happening. We can stop to take a fitness challenge if we want. We have the room to do that in a way that the evening [shows] wouldn’t be able to,” she says. “But we also are on the front lines of whatever is breaking.”