American Morning

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July 3rd, 2009
12:03 PM ET

Meet AM: Michelle Cumbo – Producer/Editorial Producer

Editor’s Note: Each Friday in “Meet AM,” we introduce you to the people who get American Morning to air.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Michelle's responsibilities range from booking guests to segment producing."]

Today, we’d like you to meet Michelle Cumbo.  Michelle is a producer/editorial producer.  This means she’s always busy looking at guest segments, finding the best guests to illustrate the news for the day and crafting the questions and topics to be addressed with these guests.  Michelle has a wonderful personality and is often cheering up people at the office with her singing.  She’s been with AM for seven years.

How did you end up doing what you do?

I was always a better writer than a mathematician. I always had a love for the English language and writing.  I got into television when my brother was in college taking a summer school course in TV production.  He had to produce a how-to demonstration segment.  So my mom said, “Why don’t you have your little sister cook?” I made these Italian cookies called pizelles.  It was horrible. I was so nervous but I loved the production side, and got more involved from there.  Now my brother is a freelance technical director who travels and works on sports material, and I’m at AM.

Describe your average day:

It’s always changing depending on what I do.  Some days I anchor produce, some days I segment produce [crafting segments and suggesting questions for the next day’s interviews]. Some days I’m booking guests.  I start off by reading all the newspapers and wires I can, getting familiar with what happened overnight or during the day, depending on when I come in.  Then I go on to see what’s interesting for today, and pitch segments.  I’ll get acquainted with the segments that I’m involved in – try and find best guests for a topic, researching guests, that kind of thing.  I’m really thinking about pegging stuff to the breaking news of the day and who is the best guest to get the info across to people.

What's the hardest part of your job?

The hardest part is when there’s a breaking news story.  Sometimes, every network is going after the same guest and you have to convince a guest why CNN is the best network to tell their story.  There’s a competitive factor and it can be difficult.

What do you like most about working at AM?

It sounds cliché but I work with an amazing group of people.  Aside from the people, it’s never boring working here.

What do you do outside of work?  What do you do for fun?

I love to cook, bake and entertain.  [Note: she is a really good baker!]

What else do you think people should know about you?

I love breaking into spontaneous show tunes.  And I’m a HUGE supporter of my hometown, Buffalo – go Bills!

Filed under: American Morning • Meet AM
June 26th, 2009
10:48 AM ET

Meet AM: Joe Belfiglio – Writer/Producer

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Joe Belfiglio works with reporters as they write and put together their segments."]

Editor’s Note: Each Friday in “Meet AM,” we introduce you to the people who get American Morning to air.

Today we’d like you to meet Joe Belfiglio. Joe is a writer/producer at American Morning. This means he has a wide assortment of duties – he could be working on any story that airs on AM at any time, writing, or helping reporters with their stories. He’s been working with AM for seven years.

How did you end up doing what you do?
I always had a passion for television. I hosted my own TV show in college which helped me land an internship at "American Morning." I steadily worked my way up the news ladder, and here I am!

Describe your average day:
I arrive around 1am and immediately immerse myself into the day’s top stories. Some days I am pre-assigned to work with a specific show-based correspondent. I often work with reporters on producing, writing, updating, and gathering supporting elements for the story they cover. When I am not assigned a reporter to work with, you can find me cross-checking the show’s rundown to see if we are missing anything or can add more to a particular story. I also pitch in writing and producing special features for the broadcast.


Filed under: Meet AM
June 19th, 2009
12:11 PM ET

Meet AM: Chris McElveen – Wall Associate Producer

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Chris takes a break at his seat in the control room during the show."]

Editor's Note: Each Friday in “Meet AM,” we’ll introduce you to the people who get American Morning to air.

Today, we’d like you to meet Chris McElveen. Chris is officially the Wall Associate Producer, but he will always respond to “Wall” or “Vista.” Chris produces the giant Vista – this means he plans out and gets all the elements for the various guests, stories, and other fun things that go in the big projection wall every day. He’s been with AM for four years.

How did you end up at AM?
It all began long ago and far away at CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. The breakroom coffee was much worse there, and the AM showside staff was much smaller with just four people. In 2006 I moved to New York and joined the illustrious crew we have working on the show today.

How did you end up doing what you do?
I'm not sure. I think someone must've put something in my drink.


Filed under: Meet AM
June 12th, 2009
11:35 AM ET

Meet AM: Matt Arnold – Senior editor/producer

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Matt Arnold finishes his editing on the day’s piece."]

Each Friday in “Meet AM,” we’ll introduce you to the people who get American Morning to air.

This week, we’d like you to meet Matt Arnold. Matt is the senior editor/producer who works with American Morning. You see his work nearly every day in the pieces that our correspondents report, or the short soundbites that we air after an interview. Matt has worked with American Morning since the day it started seven and a half years ago.

How did you end up doing what you do?
I started out in a very broad TV field in college and one day my advisor told me that I had great creativity when it came to post-production. I found a love for it when I started co-producing and editing a TV show called “2 The Xtreme” in local broadcast. While producing that show, I was also freelancing here at CNN. It was only 6 months before CNN hired me full-time.

Describe your average day:
Usually the night before, I get a call from the editors’ supervisor alerting me to our edit in the morning. I wake up early and start thinking, in the car on my way to work, about the ways to be creative in putting together the piece. After arriving at work, the AP I work with, Erica, tells me what video and graphics we have in the system. I look at the script and gather all the tapes in the edit bay. I then start the creative process of constructing the piece. I like to put together the piece with extra time to spare so I can watch it through thoroughly and make it extra-compelling. I look at my job as making an already interesting story sing. So I am trying to do that while I edit the piece. Sometimes with the material that we have, it can be difficult. But we do well. Sometimes during the show, I am also asked to cut smaller soundbites from interviews the anchors conducted, or new video that we have just gotten in. After the show, I work on pieces that are for the next day, or other shows. Then I go home and get ready to do it all again.


Filed under: Meet AM
June 5th, 2009
12:46 PM ET

Meet AM: Graham Flanagan – Associate Producer

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="You might remember Graham Flanagan from his appearance on air before the Oscars, but he’s not just a movie pundit."]

Each Friday in “Meet AM,” we’ll introduce you to the people who get American Morning to air.

Today, we’d like you to meet Graham Flanagan. Graham is one of our tape APs – he makes sure we have the newest and most relevant video for the stories we’re going to do in the day.

You might know his name from his appearance on air predicting the Oscars, or from the Graham Cam videos he’s posted on our blog. He’s been with AM for over three years.

How did you end up doing what you do?
While I was still in college at Alabama, I found out that an Alabama alumnus happened to be working at AM at the time. While I was in New York visiting some friends and seeing Lou Donaldson at the Village Vanguard, I went to CNN and had a meeting with him. I graduated that December, and then I got the go-ahead to come back to New York and start working as a freelance production assistant. I learned the ropes, got hired full-time after a few months and after a while was lucky enough to be able to move into my current position.


Filed under: Meet AM
May 29th, 2009
12:00 PM ET

Meet AM: Softball season begins

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="The American Morning staff softball players pose for a photo."]

The sun was out, the temperature balmy, and a slight breeze coming in from the left at five miles an hour, as our meteorologist Rob Marciano might say. It was finally perfect weather for the American Morning folks to take their bats and mitts and head to beautiful Central Park for a game of good old-fashioned softball.

If you read our weekly Meet AM blogs, something you should know about the crew is that we really like a game of softball. Our softball “league” started last year, and by league I mean bunch of people who head towards a field, play, and leave without being quite sure what team they were on, what the score was, and indeed what game was played. This year we decided to be more organized, and teams were picked in a lavish ceremony that would rival the NFL draft. Or, perhaps one I hastily threw together post-show in ten minutes in my duties as captain of the noble Barracudas.

Our heroes, the Barracudas, duked it out with the evil Gobsmackers (HISS) on a clear, warm Friday in May. Though innings were played well above regulation for either softball or baseball, the Gobsmackers “won”. The score is lost to the annals of history, thank God, because I think it was kind of embarrassing for our team.

The game was fiercely fought and both teams pulled out all the stops. Because of an umpire strike (Judge Sotomayor – fix this!), even German tourists stepped in to make critical calls. Danke schön, Dieter. The Barracudas truly appreciate that call of safe at third. We made it pay off for you, mein freund, at least that time.

The Gobsmackers managed miraculously to pull out a pretty clean double play, helped by second baseman Micha Rondeau and first baseman Rick Saleeby. It wasn’t Tinker to Evers to Chance, but it was pretty sweet. Another key play came when Regina Manning, the Gobsmackers’ pitcher, slid into second base and was triumphantly declared safe, in a decision I can only dispute in professional football by putting a time out in jeopardy. (Note to self: ask Executive Producer Jamie Kraft when we will be getting video replay and Hawkeye installed on the public Central Park fields. Also, ask when we will be getting umpire staff, baseball cleats, sweet dugouts with ball boys, and multimillion dollar contracts.)

Completely impartially, the game’s MVP was writer Brian Seligson, who knocks it out of the park both on and off the field. Seligson’s hits and catches have an artistry to them that can only be compared to dancers’ grace. His only flaw is that he is a Gobsmacker. Teammates, if your faithful leader tries to trade you for him, don’t be insulted. Only know that trading for Brian is like trading for a 1909 T-206 Honus Wagner baseball card – darn near impossible.

While the brave Barracudas lost – some might say unfairly, in a game that was rigged from the start and should be struck from all records – what truly matters is that no one remembers the score. Or do they? It doesn’t matter. I have my secret weapon in reserve. Let’s just say, he might have landed a plane in the Hudson and his name might rhyme with Mully Mullenberger. Bring it on.

Filed under: Meet AM
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