With some modest fanfare, Joan Lunden this week celebrates her 10th anniversary as co-host of ABC’s “Good Morning America.” This makes her somewhat extraordinary--lasting in a job that is a people-eater.
“I have to say I’m surprised that I’m sitting here, being the person who has the most tenure on the morning shows,” she says, referring to those in the co-host and co-anchor business.
“It seems like it was just yesterday that I was the new kid on the block.”
Her time on active dawn duty goes against tradition. Network morning show stars tend to be television’s wandering tribe, often moving on because of their own decisions, management anxiety, or both. Within the last 12 months, six other such stars have left or found new homes, notably Jane Pauley.
But Lunden--who is only the third female co-host “Good Morning America” has had since it began in November, 1975--has stayed put.
Married to television producer Michael Krauss, she’s even managed to have three children in her time on the program.
Lunden, who turns 40 next month and this summer signed a new five-year contract with ABC, says she hasn’t had any desire to leave “Good Morning America.” But then, her life on the show has been relatively serene.
And her show, unlike “Today” and the shows that represent CBS’ many years of efforts to make ratings in the morning, hasn’t had the public turmoil of the kind that last year made “Today” a daily two-hour soap opera.
Lunden, a ceaselessly cheery woman better known for warmth than penetrating interviews, hasn’t even had a good headline-making incident, like former “CBS This Morning’s” Kathleen Sullivan’s off-air jabs at CBS management that made their way into print last year.
“Good Morning America” was in second place to “Today,” until late last year, when the veteran NBC program went through its much-publicized debacle, with Deborah Norville replacing Jane Pauley.
As a result “Good Morning America” has been first for 33 consecutive weeks. But during its long stay in second, Lunden said, those on the show didn’t get a lot of pressure from ABC brass, or those of Capital Cities, the network’s new owners.
“They really just said, ‘Hey, go out there, enjoy it, be curious, and have a good time, " she said. “They said, ‘If it works, the ratings will go up.’ And they did.”