When Peter Alexander opens Saturday’s broadcast of “Today,” he will find himself opposite a new host — and a potential sparring partner.
Laura Jarrett, a relatively new arrival to NBC News, is taking over as his co-anchor on the weekend edition of the long-running morning program now that Kristen Welker is moving to host “Meet The Press.” As Alexander discovered during a rehearsal session on Thursday, he will have to be prepared.
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“She is smart as heck, which is not a surprise, but she is going to throw stuff back at me, as we found out at rehearsal,” Alexander quipped. “I have got to be ready.”
By pairing Jarrett, who was recently named to helm the justice beat at NBC News, with Alexander, its chief White House correspondent, NBC is no doubt keeping its corporate eye on a critical moment. The run-up to the 2024 election will demand familiarity not only with Washington, but also a working knowledge of the courtroom. There will be bumps on the Road to the White House and many of them re legal, thanks to the four different indictments facing former President Donald Trump. “Given the overlap of law and politics, I think we are perfectly positioned heading into 2024,” says Jarrett. “I’m excited for what [Alexander} and I can both bring to that coverage.”
The Saturday morning wars have intensified in recent years. CBS offers a bespoke Saturday program led by Jeff Glor, Dana Jacobson and Michelle Miller that offers deeper dives into music and food as well as enterprise and feature reporting. ABC recently named Gio Benitez to the team at the Saturday broadcast of “Good Morning America,” a program for which it has worked to get more stations to air it across the country.
Jarrett joined NBC News earlier this year from CNN, where she was co-anchoring the early-morning weekday show, “Early Start” (Interestingly, her co-anchor from that program, Christine Romans, is expected to join NBC News in weeks to come). She came to CNN to take up coverage of the Supreme Court and U.S. Department of Justice that had long been the province of the veteran Pete Williams. Before CNN, she had been working as an attorney in Chicago, after graduating from Harvard Law School.
Jarrett had long harbored ambitions of working as a TV-news legal analyst. Now she has something even bigger to manage.
The Saturday job may give her new opportunities as well. “Today” anchors must mix hard news with lifestyle issues, all while nodding to the lighter side of the cycle. Alexander expects this weekend, for example, to have a discussion about how to get kids back on an appropriate nighttime schedule now that school has started. “We are going to talk about tools for getting your kid back to sleep at a halfway decent hour. I know I’m not the only person who’s trying to navigate getting a kid to go to bed at 8:45 when they’d much rather stay up,” he says. “These are issues that affect real people.”
Such coverage will give Jarrett the chance to show a different side of herself. “I think during the week, the viewers see me primarily covering death or indictments or pretty heavy stuff,” she says. “I’m looking forward to the audience and for myself to get to do things that might be a little more joyful than a double murder.”
After moving Saturday “Today” to Washington D.C. to accommodate Alexander’s and Welker’s heady beats, NBC is bringing the program back to New York. Jarrett is based there, as are on-air colleagues such as Joe Fryer and “Today” producers. Alexander says he doesn’t mind the trip to New York, which often starts on Fridays. He gets to see colleagues he might not visit with great regularity and, once in a while, can do something like bring his daughters to a “Today” concert.
Jarrett was not expecting the “Today” gig. “I was minding my own business,” she says, and working the new beat. But she was encouraged not only by the way Alexander reached out to her, but by Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie, the latter of whom has, like Jarrett, a legal degree. On Saturday, Jarrett joins the family.
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