Westporter, CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota on local talking tour with new book
Published 9:44 am, Thursday, July 27, 2017
WESTPORT — During the 2012 presidential election, Westporter Alisyn Camerota — then a host of Fox & Friends — regularly interviewed the race’s Republican candidates and in the process confronted challenges of how to get a powerful person in the public eye to tell the truth. At times during the election, she was frustrated, feeling some candidates weren’t sticking to facts, that she wasn’t necessarily holding their feet to the fire to keep them honest and that her boss at the time had a “different agenda sometimes than that.”
She began to take notes, chronicling her thoughts and experiences. A year later, she realized there was something more there, a book that would examine how personal relationships and viewpoints intersect with the news and vice versa. The novel, which follows morning co-anchor at the fictitious FAIR News Amanda Gallo, was released this week.
“The deeper mores serious side of it is I did think we should all be having a conversation about journalism and good journalism and that not all news is created equal and the ethical challenges we do face as journalists,” Camerota said of “Amanda Wakes Up.”
She also wanted people to be able to get an entertaining behind-the-scenes glimpse at broadcast news. Camerota drew on her experience as a CNN host and her time at Fox News to craft the fictional tale. One experience that made it into the book is the pitch meetings that Camerota had at Fox, which she said show how personal preferences and agendas impact how and what news is reported.
“You have to decide which stories to tell,” she said, noting stories might be picked by whoever sells a pitch best or, in some cases, the mood of an executive producer would play a part.
Author Event at Barnes and Noble
Thursday, July 27, 7 p.m.
Alisyn Camerota, television journalist and co-anchor of CNN's New Day, has added 'author' to her impressive credentials with her debut novel Amanda Wakes Up. She will be at Westport’s Barnes and Noble Thursday, July 27.
The novel also attempts to capture how journalists must in real time do the best they can to wrap their minds around complicated topics and communicate that to viewers.
“I was trying to capture the breathless pace of our jobs,” Camerota said. “We’re making decisions sometimes at 4 a.m. at 5 a.m. sometimes during a two-minute commercial break and these are high stakes decisions we’re making. They have a big impact.”
Certain characters in the novel are based on people Camerota has worked with, including the studio crew that Amanda works with, the “unsung heroes of TV news.” Amanda’s best friend in the novel is a “hard-charging producer who always gets the big get,” based on Camerota’s friend Maria Villalobos, who she met while working for five years as a crime reporter for America’s Most Wanted.
While the book is based on her journalistic experience, writing it took Camerota down a different path — away from the fact-based, research-driven world of journalism to let her imagination run wild.
Camerota, who has spoken in Westport about her experiences interviewing President Donald Trump, continues her journalistic work on camera each weekday on CNN’s New Day. Reporting for a network Trump has repeatedly attacked as “fake news,” she has experienced firsthand covering his presidency.
“It’s been at times a challenge to cover the President and this presidency because they at times have not been terribly transparent and some of his surrogates have come on and not wanted to answer my questions and engaged in deflection and spin,” she said, noting the challenge of having to refocus and press these interviewees for answers during a live interview.
Between the constant Tweets and leaks coming out of Trump’s presidency, as well as consistent breaking news stories, Camerota has worked to stay on top of a currently massive 24-hour news cycle.
“The news cycle is crazy right now,” she said. “There is more news breaking at this moment than I have ever seen in all of my 25 years in this business.”
Each night, Camerota goes to bed around 8 or 9 p.m., knowing her morning show will likely be changed when she wakes up for the 6 a.m. broadcast. To manage the torrent of news, Camerota has been reading articles and transcripts form the White House throughout the day to keep the pulse.
“But I’d be lying to say there’s not a pretty big dose of winging it at the moment,” she said. “It’s sort of impossible to know everything.”
Trump’s repeated attacks on the media and characterization of journalists as the opposition present another challenge. Journalists do not believe that opposition is their role, Camerota noted, but rather holding powerful people accountable and serving as a conduit for information. CNN has taken particular scorn from Trump, including his Tweet earlier this month of a fake video showing the President physically attacking CNN.
“It’s just sort of unpleasant to be called names, but it hasn’t changed anything about what we do. We just show up every day and — if anything — sharpened our purpose,” Camerota said. “It hasn’t had a chilling effect i’m happy to report.”
She likened the “fake news” label to “the boy who cried wolf,” noting viewers haven’t changed how they see CNN and the overuse of the label has lessened its impact.
In a career that has spanned over two decades, Camerota recalled a story that stuck out, covering the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“9/11 was the most devastating news story to ever cover,” she said. “I covered it for weeks on end. There was so much uncertainty during that time.”
Unsure what would happen, she covered the Pentagon for about a month, unsure if or when she would return home and working to stay collected and get information to a public desperate for news and clarity.
Her five years at America’s Most Wanted as a crime reporter stick with Camerota as well. She learned the power of TV there, she said, watching how through the show they could help capture fugitives and recover missing children after an episode.
Home in Westport
Camerota moved to town five years ago with her husband and children. After testing dozens of towns, Westport’s beach, schools, community and beautiful setting made for the perfect package.
“I was tired of living in the city and looking for more space and grass and oxygen and more breathing room,” she said.
She’s found a community of writers in Westport, great friends who have supported her book process and taken her under their wing. While the Shrewsbury, N.J. native still considers herself a Jersey girl, she feels at home in Westport, which reminds her of her hometown.
Camerota did a book signing in Westport Thursday and will be at the New Canaan Library on Aug. 1.