(From Antoinette Machiaverna, TODAY Producer)
I don't like writing about myself very much, or trying to explain what I do because I've been doing it for so long that it's like breathing. But I love sharing stories about my kids. You don't know me, but you have seen my kids grow up.
I first came to the Today Show after spending ten years at NBC Sports. I switched jobs because I had a toddler son and was spending 200 days a year on the road. So when I joined the Today Show staff, I was the only mom at the time (the same was true in Sports for that matter.)
My son was about to turn three. After a few months at the Today Show, I got called in by one of our senior producers and was told research showed that viewers wanted parenting information. "You're the only mom here," she said, "so can you produce them?" I said, "All of them?" She said well, yes and maybe we can get you some help.
I asked her, "What kinds of stories do you have in mind?"
"I have no idea, whatever you want, just give us a list of the topics" was the reply.
So we started the series known as "Today's Family".
Doing those stories made me a much better mother. I got to spend time with Dr. Spock at his home in Maine, and asked him about toilet training (don't even try before they're 2 and a half). Dr. T. Berry Brazelton told me not to worry about my son's identification with the Evil Emperor and Darth Vader in "Star Wars", instead of Han Solo or Luke Skywalker. I was assured that he was only working out his own fears. And Mister (Fred) Rogers answered my questions about teaching my children empathy. On top of that, I did about a hundred stories on advice to working moms.
Whatever stage my kids were at, you were bound to see a story on it because I needed the advice, and figured you at home would appreciate it, too. From infancy through college, I was lucky enough to have a personal cadre of expert advisers on raising children.
My kids have also been responsible for some of the ideas that have been on the show. When my son was in 5th grade (he is going to graduate from the University of Southern California in May, so time really does fly), he told me I should do a story on his favorite author, R.L. Stine, who wrote the "Goosebumps" books. I told my son I didn't think it was a real person because no one could write a book a month. But he was real and did write a book a month. So I brought in a group of kids to interview him, including my son, and later, my daughter.
At five years old, my daughter told me she loved the Backstreet Boys and I should put them on the show. I took her to a concert and saw all the moms sharing the music with their pre-teenybopper daughters and agreed. I told our entertainment producer, and eventually we started booking all those boy bands for our concert series. My daughter, by the way, made her debut on the show when she was three weeks old as a baby strapped into a car seat in a segment on how to strap your baby into a car seat. She was a natural. When I had to do a toy fair segment, I bussed in my son's entire day care class from New Jersey to play with them on camera. It was chaos, but fun. And my daughter's preschool class sang happy birthday to Lamb Chop and Shari Lewis. Now, Today Show kids are a big part of toy, kids' entertainment and children's fashion segments. Since my kids are older, I recruit from the now very large pool of Today Show offspring.
The only downside for my kids is the number of hours I work, the odd hours I get up and come home (we work late nights and go in early in the morning), and the fact that I also have done my share of stories on internet predators, bullies, kidnappings, cyber stalking, school shootings and have interviewed too many grieving parents. As a result, my 14 year old daughter isn't allowed access to Myspace.Com or Facebook.Com or any other internet site that troubles me. Text messaging is blocked from her cell phone.
Yes, being a Today Show mom has made me a bit paranoid. For example, this past Spring Break, my son took a trip to the Grand Canyon. When I hadn't heard from him in six days, everything went through my mind from grizzly bears to serial killers. I used my journalists' skills to check his credit card records. I accessed his voicemail(he should use a more creative code) to get his friends' phone numbers and called them. I came up with enough information, or lack thereof, to warrant calling the National Park Service.
I have to say thank you to Bruce from the National Park Service for telling me that there is no cell phone coverage in the Grand Canyon, exactly what campsite my son slept in the night before, and that he was out hiking at the moment. Bruce got all that information in about 20 minutes. I was impressed and relieved and got the impression I wasn't the first parent who pressed number 3 on the phone prompt for "Late Hikers".
That's what it's like being a Today Show producer, who is also a mom.
You should let us know what topics you'd like to learn more about so we can continue to help address your concerns about parenting.