How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

Rise and Shine! How NBC's morning anchors wake up

September 24, 2010: 10:01 AM ET

by Patricia Sellers

What time did you get up this morning?

Not as early as the crew on NBC's Today, I bet.

Yesterday at 30 Rock, NBC Universal's (GE) headquarters, Nightly News anchor Brian Williams connected with his inner Robin Williams (he's almost as funny, though drier) and, before an audience of media writers and other television-industry watchers, queried the hosts of MSNBC's Morning Joe, CNBC's Squawk Box, and Today.

Matt Lauer sets his alarm for 4:10 a.m. but inevitably awakens at 4:08 -- evidence of his well-known fastidiousness, he admitted.

Meredith Vieira rises at 2:30 -- which made Williams and others wonder how high-maintenance Lauer's co-host on Today must be. Vieira explained that it's not just that she lives far away. (Williams joked that maybe she comes in from...Pittsburgh?!) Vieira happens to have a morning ritual that involves lying on her back in her bathroom, feet propped up, as she checks the news and reads her emails on her BlackBerry.

Hey, whatever gets you up and moving.

Al Roker, Today's weather predictor, gets up at 3 a.m., relying on a cheap alarm clock, he said. Ann Curry plays it safe, using multiple back-up alarms, though she's a relatively late 4:30 a.m. riser.

Joe Scarborough, the host of MSNBC's Morning Joe, boasted, typically, that he's the real Master of the Morning Universe. He hops out of bed at 5:30 a.m. (sometimes later, if he's feeling really cocky), throws on his clothes, and arrives at the studio by 6 a.m., when Morning Joe goes on the air. No sweat, says Joe, if you live close by.

By the way, I wake up each day to Scarborough and his Morning Joe co-host, Mika Brezezinski. And I'm a big fan of the show. Scarborough said yesterday that when he came up with the idea for the program and pushed to get it on the air, MSNBC President Phil Griffin gave him a piece of advice: "Pretend you have an audience of one. And pretend it's Tim Russert."

So the show is a tribute, actually, to Meet the Press's former anchor, who was also NBC's Washington bureau chief. Russert died in 2008. NBC tries to follow Russert's rule: Never underestimate the intelligence of the viewer.

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About This Author
Pattie Sellers
Pattie Sellers
Senior Editor at Large, Fortune
Executive Director of MPW/Live Content, Time Inc.

Pattie Sellers has written more than 20 Fortune cover stories including "Marissa Mayer: Ready to Rumble at Yahoo," "Muhtar Kent's New Coke," "Oprah's Next Act", "The $100 Billion Woman" (Melinda Gates), and "Gone with the Wind" (Ted Turner). She co-founded Fortune Most Powerful Women and oversees the Fortune MPW Summit, the preeminent gathering of women leaders in business and beyond—and programs such as Fortune MPW Entrepreneurs and the Fortune-U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership. Pattie also develops Live Content across Time Inc. Her blog, Postcards, is about how power players lead and navigate their careers. Pattie won Time Inc.'s prestigious MVP award for her performance in 2012.

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