(By Matthew Glick, TODAY Producer)
Not many of us have ever been interviewed in front of a camera. Sure we talk all the time to friends and family. We share intimate details of our lives with loved ones. And we tell of experiences both good and bad. It's no big deal, right? But as soon as that red light above the camera lens turns on most of us quickly shy away. It's totally natural. A large pit in our stomach is felt. Butterflies appear out of nowhere.
That's where I come in. I am Matt Lauer's Booking Producer. The interviews I work on range from hard-hitting politicos, doctors working on the cutting edge of medical breakthroughs, and everything else in between. But the stories that consistently rate and get our viewers talking in the morning are those where everyday people, just like you and me, suddenly find themselves thrust into the spotlight.
Sometimes people like the attention. The story is upbeat and positive. They are excited to sit down with Matt, go through hair and make-up, and see the studio and be out on the plaza. At the same time, when tragedy strikes and a family is having to make its way through a difficult time - the media spotlight can feel relentless. Truth be told, as a Producer working on TODAY with Matt on high-profile story assignments, you often see the very best in people going through the most trying of times.
It's a feeling hard to describe. I have stood in what used to be the living room of a family in Florida who lost their home to Hurricane Ivan. I have talked with Francis Cardinal George at the Vatican as hundreds of thousands waited in line to pay their respects to Pope John Paul II. I have sat alongside inconsolable family members anxiously awaiting word of loved ones trapped in a West Virginia mining accident.
Simply put my job is to talk with people, make them feel comfortable, and walk them through the interview process. It's not easy. There is a lot of travel, 60 plus hour work weeks, and a great deal of pressure to get the story. The competition with the other networks for the "exclusive" is intense.
Almost everyday after the show and after sifting through dozens of newspapers, magazines, and websites - my colleague, Matt Zimmerman, and I meet with Matt Lauer in his office and brainstorm. Everyone has a story to tell. The trick is finding that story and the right person to tell it. The rest is easy.
One such story I worked on attracted a staggering 35 million viewers airing on all NBC platforms. It was a story that made international headlines involving an attractive middle school teacher in Florida who had sex with a 14-year-old student of hers. WATCH VIDEO It's a story that Matt and I followed for almost two years. We eventually sat down with that teacher, Debra Lafave, for an exclusive television interview that aired as an hour-long special in primetime. It was important to the teacher for others to know she suffered from Bipolar Disorder. She wanted to help raise awareness by talking about why she did what she did – even though I’m sure some of our viewers probably felt differently.
When someone decides to sit down with Matt to share their story in a time of crisis it is because there is some good that can come of it. There is a takeaway lesson to be had. Matt Lauer is all about tone. His interview style reflects that. We simply provide a forum for people to say what they want however they want to say it. In the end, it is a person's words of caution, hope, or inspiration shared with us on TODAY that can truly make a difference. What people often forget when going through the absolute worst of circumstances is that they still have the ability to positively affect the life of someone else by speaking out.
What's so amazing about TODAY and my job is everyday is a different day with a different story to tell. I along with the other Producers on the show become experts in whatever subject matter we are tackling. I always think to myself everyone in television news must have the worst attention span because after mastering one segment you quickly move on to the next big story.