Producers at ABC's Good Morning America (GMA) have been busy for
weeks preparing a number of segments to coincide with the upcoming
execution of Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh. Newsworthy, timely
and of interest to a broad audience, the story has all the attributes
GMA producers crave.
Meanwhile, GMA nailed its highest ratings of the year in April for an
interview with President Bush. Producers were further delighted when
segments of the interview, in which the president commented on relations
with China, made their way into scores of media outlets around the
Most clients don't possess McVeigh's infamy or the sheer star power of
the President of the US. But there are still ways to grab a spot on the
'New, new, new, it's just got to be new,' says GMA executive producer
Shelley Ross. 'We're looking for the latest buzz, hot pop culture
trends, medical breakthroughs, new consumer items - and we love great
visuals and great wit.'
From the tragedy at Littleton, CO, to 'Losing Weight With Good Morning
America,' GMA leads with a hard news intro, later tempered with more
light-hearted lifestyle and human interest-style features.
Approaching its 27th year, GMA received a much-needed makeover in early
1999 to bolster ratings, outfitting the show with a new set, new song,
and Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer as the new co-anchors. Airing
weekdays from 7am to 9am, they've got plenty of airtime to stock.
'We coordinate a tsunami wave of information,' says Ross. 'But, we don't
want to miss one new hot thing.'
Important for many publicists, product placements aren't exactly a high
priority for GMA producers, though they are not out of the question
'It can't be a straight plug, there has to be news value there,'
explains Ross. 'It must be a new product, something they've never seen
And, it must be something that will help you, change your life or make
some aspect of life more efficient.'
With its immense audience, GMA's senior team of eight professionals has
to digest a torrent of pitches - the majority of which cross the desk of
Sue Carswell, story editor. Story meetings are held at least once a
Plan carefully before you pick up the phone. Ross, though open to most
techniques, is steadfastly against pitching via voice-mail. 'As much as
I would love to, I can't respond to them,' she says.
Patience is a virtue, especially when you're pitching a high-profile
show like GMA. 'Persistence will pay off if you've got a great story,'
GMA producers sometimes find themselves at the mercy of larger news
cycles, like the upcoming McVeigh execution, or just inundated with
multiple flavors of the same story type.
'I'll look at the story grid and see there are several hot movies
released at the same time,' says Ross. 'Then it starts to not feel like
Where's our hard news? Where's our medical? Unfortunately, sometimes we
have to turn something down for scheduling.'
Patience and a product or client with broad appeal will give you the
best shot of garnering a spot on GMA. While the show doesn't
specifically target any particular demographic consistently, Ross says
they develop features and touch all demographics at least once a
Russell Watson was one such guest that hit on multiple cylinders. Last
month, the young opera singer with Universal Classic Records from
Manchester, England visited the show prior to making his American
'Two years ago he was working in a factory and singing in karaoke bars,'
says Ross. 'These days his CD went triple platinum in London, and he's
battling Madonna on the charts.'
The morning of the show, the record company took out a full-page ad in
USA Today trumpeting the appearance. 'We absolutely love to get 'As seen
on GMA' plugs,' says Ross.
'We're in morning hand-to-hand combat,' Ross says. 'That's why we need
to appeal to our audience and stay ahead of the trends.' Having gained
ground against NBC News' Today in the ratings, GMA leads CBS News' Early
Therefore, GMA needs great pitches just as much as the publicists need
placements. Says Ross: 'It's a wonderful tango we dance together.'
Good Morning America
Address: ABC News 'Good Morning America,' 147 Columbus Ave., NY, NY
Tel: (212) 456-5900
Executive Producer: Shelley Ross
Story editor: Sue Carswell.