Brian Stelter’s Top of the World: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV (2013)is a bit of a misnomer. Less of an insider expose into the “cutthroat” world of morning TV, Stelter’s book is more of a chronicle of the rivalry between Good Morning America (GMA) and Today and the events that led to Today’s eventual downfall to number two in 2012 after sixteen years at number one. Opening up with “Operation Bambi,” the name given to the plan to oust Ann Curry from Today, Stelter then details the key warring executives whose desires for power and dominance fueled the rivalry between the two shows–and some of the “talents,” like Ann Curry, Deborah Norville, Lisa McRee, and Kevin Newman, among others, who were victims of their “cutthroat” plans.
Top of the Morning was a rather disappointing read in that it felt more like tabloid fodder than riveting journalism. Much of what was included was not deserving of a whole book. As chapters dragged on, details became redundant. More unappealing to me was Stelter’s sensationalist, tongue-in-cheek tone, as exemplified by the following: “Oh, what a thrill it is to solve, or even to think you’ve solved, a large, long-standing, and most of all public problem!…Yes. He. Jim Bell. Had. The. Answer” (p. 3). I also had a problem with his limited exploration of the various world of morning TV, as GMA and Today were really the two shows highlighted extensively with a detour made to talk about Morning Joe. Overall, the book seemed like one long editorial.
If you’re interested in finding out how Ann Curry got ousted from Today and some of the politics involved in running those two shows, read the book. But if you expect to learn about the cutthroat world of morning TV–beyond GMA and Today–this book is a pass.