Good Times, Bad Times: Brian Stelter Parties On Despite Negative Book Review

Brian Stelter. (Photo via Facebook.)

Brian Stelter. (Photo via Facebook.)

Last week was quite a whirlwind for New York Times media reporter Brian Stelter. Top of The Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV, his look at the world of morning television, hit shelves, and Mr. Stelter found himself in the potentially awkward situation of appearing as a guest on morning shows to talk about a book about morning shows.

At press time, Mr. Stelter had done around 20 media appearances, with more scheduled. He was on Morning Edition, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, CNN’s Early Start, Entertainment Tonight and Inside Edition. Revelations were sprinkled throughout the tabloids and on the cover of Us Weekly, which featured a smiling photo of Ann Curry in a yellow cardigan, arms defiantly resting on her hips, with the headline “Stabbed in the Back: They called her ‘Big Bird’ and plotted to get rid of her. How Ann Curry’s coworkers tortured her and why she won’t forgive Matt Lauer.” 

“I feel the same way a morning producer feels at 9 a.m.—proud of my work, happy that people have seen it for themselves and dog-tired,” Mr. Stelter told Off the Record over the weekend.

Although The New York Times Magazine ran a cover story the weekend before the book came out on some of the juicier elements about Ms. Curry’s ouster and the drama with Matt Lauer behind the scenes, the newspaper itself panned the book in a review

“Brian Stelter’s book on the nefarious network morning show wars ends up being like a breakfast made not quite to order,” veteran television critic Ed Bark wrote. “The eggs over easy have one hard yolk, and the bacon’s a little limp. The toast is well-buttered but burned, and the coffee’s short on heat. Edible? Yes. Fulfilling? Not quite.”

Mr. Bark then took the reporter to task for his use of metaphor, which, when comparing a book to breakfast in the opening of a review, seemed a tad unfair.

“It’s a breezy read with more than a little overblown prose, some of it just plain silly,” Mr. Bark continued, noting that the author, at 27, still has “ample time really to get the hang of this.”

“I expected a tough review,” Mr. Stelter told OTR. “If it had been glowing, readers would have rolled their eyes.”

Tough review or not, it did little to quell the celebration. Mr. Stelter’s girlfriend, NY1 traffic reporter Jamie Shupak, organized a book party at The Park in Chelsea. (The book is dedicated to Mr. Stelter’s parents and to Ms. Shupak: “For Jamie, my love, who makes every morning a good one.” Of course, Ms. Shupak is usually at the NY1 studios before dawn to report on traffic conditions.)

Sunlight streamed through the large windows, making it difficult to see the media people, drinks in hand, who stood with their backs to the view of the High Line.

“You know, Jamie was the social director of her sorority,” Mr. Stelter told OTR. We didn’t doubt it. The bubbly brunette, in a lime green minidress, acted every bit the hostess, posing for pictures and thanking people for coming. In keeping with the theme, the dessert table featured chocolate cakes shaped like miniature TV sets and peanut butter balls shaped like tiny suns.

“Matt Lauer and Ann Curry send their regrets,” joked Mr. Stelter, before thanking both his and Ms. Shupak’s moms and a host of editors and colleagues, many of whom were in the room.

“The hardest part was putting together a guest list,” Ms. Shupak said, explaining that she had to keep adding people at the last minute. But Ms. Shupak evidently did a good job. In addition to her family and his, there was a strong Times contingent: Michael Grynbaum, Michael Barbaro, Christine Haughney, Dave Itzkoff, Julie Bloom, Stephanie Clifford, Julie Bosman and Bill Carter all seemed relaxed despite a Politico hit piece on executive editor Jill Abramson’s tenure that ran earlier in the week. Bloggers, television execs and NY1 hosts rounded out the list.

Out on the balcony, media reporter David Carr smoked a cigarette in the setting sun while talking to a friend of Ms. Shupak’s mom.

As we were leaving, NY1’s Pat Kiernan reminded us to grab a copy of the book. They were almost gone.