But none of that really gives you a sense of the amount of work that goes into making this show happen every day. A dedicated crew of producers, directors, camerapeople and reporters all come together to get this done.
So I give you…a morning in the life.
All is calm when I walk into the newsroom, but there’s a very real sense of energy and preparation. I had impressed myself by arriving at 5:30, but compared to these guys, I’m a slugabed.
“We’re usually both here by 4:00,” said Gordon. “She [Nicole] is usually here sooner than I am.”
He paused and smiled.
“She takes way longer to get ready than I do.”
“I like everything about doing the show - except the whole being in at 3:30 part of course,” added Gerber. “But the [truth] is, despite having to wake up before the sun comes up, Clay and I really just love this job.”
And that’s it. That’s one of the main reasons this show works. Clay and Nicole genuinely like one another as well as what they do. The chemistry they have is undeniable – even when they’re off-camera. The easy back-and-forth between them that makes for good television also makes for engaging conversation. For a few moments, I simply sat back (in Jared Pliner’s chair – sorry!) and tried not to interrupt their flow.
There’s a lot of advance work that needs to be done before the 6:30 airtime rolls around. Not only are they tweaking and rewriting news scripts, but they’re both moving in and out of the studio; today, Clay is filming the teasers for that evening’s newscast, while Nicole films what she calls a “topical” – basically a tease featuring some aspect of the next morning’s show.
That’s right; she’s working toward tomorrow’s show before today even begins.
The easy sense of camaraderie – not just between Clay and Nicole, but throughout the entire crew – gradually gives way to a sense of purpose as the clock ticks toward airtime. Then, before you know it, the announcement of “three minutes to air” comes over the PA and the anchors make their way to their places.
It’s go time.
I sit and watch as the entire machine goes to work. Everyone is in constant communication; every second needs to be accounted for. And as Clay and Nicole welcome the viewers on this Wednesday, as they banter about some topic or another or share some quick viewer thoughts from Facebook or Twitter, you can see that this is where they belong.
Perhaps the best part of being here “behind the scenes” is the chance to see the other show – the one that doesn’t make it to air. It might surprise you to discover just how rollicking it can get when the cameras aren’t rolling.
“We laugh. A lot. Probably too much,” said Gerber. “Sometimes we laugh so hard we can’t read through scripts. Clay is always trying to get me to laugh so hard I snort on the air. Funny guy.
“Sometimes we just sit behind the desk and laugh so much and have such a good time I forget we’re working. Between our chemistry, the great relationships we have with our staff, and the amazing people we’re talking to beyond the camera, I just know this is what we’re meant to do.”
That might sound disingenuous or exaggerated, but having been there a time or two when one or the other of them starts laughing and just plain can’t stop, I can assure you that it isn’t. Whether it’s forcing ridiculous YouTube videos on one another or trotting out bizarre inside jokes, the two of them never seem to stop enjoy themselves and each other.
(And before we go any further, let’s get this (apparently quite popular) question out of the way: they’re wearing pants. They’re both wearing pants. They’re always wearing pants, although rumor has it that Clay will occasionally roll with his slippers and Nicole sometimes layers a pair of sweats under her skirt. But yes – everyone is fully dressed.)
For those who have yet to experience the ABC 7/FOX morning news, here’s how it works. The morning is broken into three half-hour blocks; the first block (6:30-7) airs on ABC while the second (7-7:30) and third (7:30-8) air on FOX. There are similarities between the three – there’s just not that much fresh news to cover in this area – but Clay and Nicole do a great job at creating a unique viewing experience. The skeleton of each show is obviously the news coverage, but through their own interactions and occasional in-studio guests (like yours truly!), the anchors turn each half-hour into something unique.
And they care about what they do.
“Well, truthfully, it sounds stupid and corny,” Gerber said, “but I originally got into journalism because I whole-heartedly believe it’s one of the most important jobs in the world: bringing the news to the people. Keeping them informed on what’s happening in the world. Even if it’s about a fundraiser next door, if it’s what’s important to them, then we have to get the word out.”
That passion for people infuses everything. One of the primary aims of the show from the outset was to use things like social media in an effort to develop stronger interactions and relationships between the show and its audience. It’s a little different – for everybody.
“I didn’t think I would like the casual, laid-back style of the morning show - I’m more of a breaking news, 6pm-type journalist - but I actually adore it!” said Gerber. “It has allowed me to really learn who our viewers are and interact with them on a much more personal level. Factor in all the social media that we use and I feel like I really know some of these people that I’ve only ever had online interactions with!”
It’s that sort of personal connection that elevates this show beyond the average everyday norm. Every single day sees some sort of topic of discussion offered up online, with viewers invited to share their thoughts on Facebook, Twitter and the like. This audience commentary is a vital part of the show; Clay and Nicole use the responses to inform and enhance their own conversations. It’s a chance to inspire real investment in the show – a show that literally didn’t exist a year ago. Carving out a space for this show wasn’t easy.
“It was hard coming into a show that didn’t exist already,” Gerber said. “We weren’t expanding on a morning show that had been airing for 10 years, or even one year. This was a brand new show. No set structure. No host of dedicated viewers. So launching something that relies heavily on viewer interactions (via the daily Twitter and Facebook questions, for example) was really nerve-racking.
“But the response we’ve gotten has (thankfully!) been really great! And for the people that are interested in having a younger, more social media heavy program, they’ve got the option now!”
Lest we forget – 8 AM is far from the end of the day for these intrepid anchors. On this particular Wednesday, each of them is scheduled to head in different directions, equipment in tow, and track down more stories. They make the transition from anchor to reporter and sally forth to continue doing what they do best – informing the public.
It was just another morning for Clay Gordon and Nicole Gerber; manning the anchor desk, entertaining and informing their audience. For me – and perhaps for you – it was much more. It was a chance to peek behind the curtain.
And one final word from Ms. Gerber:
“The bottom line I really think is this: we are, on the air, EXACTLY who we are in real life. You get what you see. And I’m proud of us for that.
“We didn’t know what the “right” way to start this show was. We only know who we are. And if people like it, they tune in. And if not, there are other amazing options for news in this city (Yes, we are all friends; we don’t rumble like the crews in Anchorman…usually). And we’re always open to feedback and constructive criticism. I mean, we do this for the public, after all!”