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Guest Opinion

Is motherhood a competitive advantage on TV?

Forget health care and Afghanistan, the big news question is: Who's going to replace Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America"?

Yes, there are bigger life-and-death issues out there in the world, but the person we share our morning coffee with matters, or at least it does to some of us. The person who delivers your news becomes part of your life. Or rather, they become part of your life in that weird TV I-feel-like-I-know-you-and-we're-pals-even-though-we've-never-really-met

sort of way.

That's one of the odd paradoxes of television. We want a morning show host who seems like they're one of us. Yet they also have to be razor-smart, well-informed, good-looking, a quick study, and be willing to wake up every day at 3 a.m. and work like a dog, all while appearing jovial, in-charge and glamorous, in a non-threatening way, of course.

With millions of dollars in potential advertising revenue at stake, the big brass at ABC have a lot riding on their morning hosts. And therein lies the challenge.

The network execs who decide such matters are, generally speaking, highly paid, mostly male, and mostly white executives who live in New York. Yet they have to choose a host that will resonate with a suburban housewife in Snellville, a teacher in Omaha and waitress in Tucson.

Odds-makers say that ABC is leaning toward promoting GMA weekend anchor Kate Snow into the top job. I haven't been privy to any of the meetings on this subject, but as an avid observer of the media, I suspect they favor Snow for some obvious reasons.

She meets the brains, beauty and talent requirements. Thin and blond as well as uber-smart (undergrad from Cornell, master's in foreign service from Georgetown), she exudes that approachable, calming energy audiences expect in the morning.

However, Snow has another advantage, and I wonder if the network brass even realizes what a big deal it: She's a mother.

Women are the primary audience for morning shows, and the group most coveted by advertisers is moms. With two little kids under the age of 6, Snow feels like one of us. We might not be able to share our cornflakes with a real girlfriend, but a TV substitute is the next best thing.

The mom factor has been one of the underpinnings behind some of TV's most successful morning hosts (think Katie Couric and Joan Lunden).

Parenting expert Stacy Debroff says, "I've done literally hundreds of national TV interviews, and when the host can personally relate, it makes for a much more compelling segment."

As if to further prove the point, a group of Midwest moms has actually started a Facebook group called "We're for Kate Snow."

Has motherhood finally become a competitive advantage?

I met Kate Snow when we both spoke at a conference. The morning we were introduced, she was trying to get a coffee stain out of her suit because her 4-year-old had banged into her as she was walking out the door.

She was smart and interesting, but it was the coffee stain that endeared her to the audience.

I'm not sure how much attention network brass pays to moms. But when your most important demo group tells you they want to share their morning coffee with someone who's had it slopped all over her, perhaps they should listen.

- Lisa Earle McLeod is an author, syndicated columnist and principal of McLeod & More, Inc., a training and consulting firm specializing in sales, leadership and conflict management (www.LisaEarleMcLeod.com).

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