It all began when Albert and Gittlin, who worked together at “Good Morning America,” met Gerstein, a journalist contributing to CBNC, CNN and MSNBC. The threewomen, who were each in the midst of motherhood’s various stages from pregnancy to kindergarten admissions, found they had much in common, including a belief that a candid discussion about raising kids in New York City was missing in the media.
“There was nothing out there that really spoke honestly to moms,” explains Gittlin, who was pregnant at the time with her now three-year-old son.
“We all worked together basically and had the same idea but had different experiences after we had kids,” Albert says. “I couldn’t wait to go back to work, but I found it very hard to keep doing what I was doing and being a mom the way that I wanted to be a mom. We basically all thought something was missing.”
Nor were the new responsibilities and extra hours of raising kids fitting neatly into the round-the-clock demands of television news anymore. “I wanted to be able to carve out my own schedule,” says Gerstein, whose three children range in age from 19 months to nine years. “My head wasn’t in Baghdad and breaking news anymore, it was in motherhood.”
It was then that the three began contributing first-person pieces for Metro New York, taking turns writing about topics about which they felt strongly as working parents and women. Their reliably provocative commentary caught the attention of NBC New York’s David Ushery, a reporter and host of “The Debrief,” a fast-paced news show covering buzz-worthy issues. Soon, Ushery was booking them on the program; by their fourth
appearance, their sass and savvy had earned them praise and laughs in the control room, and they were asked to shoot a pilot, which was completed in April of 2010. The show debuted only four months later in July.
These days, “Moms and the City and a Dad Named David” (Ushery now chimes in with his own paternal perspective) airs weekly on WNBC and on Nonstop channels in New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago and Washington D.C. and is scheduled to expand with the network’s introduction to the California and Miami markets in January 2011. In the meantime, their blog’s move from Metro to the New York Daily News, along with their current billing as celebrity content providers to BabyCenter.com, have launched them into that rarified stratosphere of a multi-platform brand.
But despite their sudden success, you won’t find a team of publicists networking for their exposure behind the scenes. Albert—an award-winning producer for broadcaster Deborah Norville and the daughter of legendary sportscaster, Marv Albert—reveals the DIY nature of their enterprise, saying, “It’s really just the three of us doing everything.” The call to entrepreneurship has brought to light the women’s individual talents: “Melissa books everything, Raina is our expert writer and I’m more of a manager,” Albert says.
What’s more, the moms don’t always agree on how things should be done. But it’s that kind of light-hearted dissent—and confidence in their respective opinions—that has proven to be the moms’ secret ingredient that keeps viewers and readers tuning in. “We all have very different perspectives, which is why this works,” Albert says.
“It speaks to the universal experience of motherhood,” Gittlin agrees. “We all have a common goal, but we might have different opinions and ways of doing things.”
During no other segment are their opinions debated more intensely than their top-of- the-show version of “hot topics,” during which the moms tackle parenting matters from breastfeeding to bullying. The switch from reporting the news to commenting on it, however, has taken some getting used to. “I love asking questions and I love the curiosity of our business as journalists,” says Gittlin. “So to turn the spotlight on myself and reveal my innermost personal feelings about, for example, the societal pressures of maybe having only one child and how does that make me feel, has been rather challenging.”
What’s more, the moms are quick to point out they don’t claim to be experts on any one subject. For that, they call on a weekly guest psychologist or educator during “The Bottom Line,” a kind of professional wrap-up of the discussion.
Other favorite show segments include “Mamarazzi,” when the moms go one-on-one with celebrities about motherhood. From Julianne Moore and Denise Richards to Tori Spelling and Iman, the intention of these interviews, Albert says, is to meet the mom, not just the starlet. “We might say, ‘Do you really love being pregnant? Do you feel guilty when you go to work?’ Yesterday we asked Tiffani Thiessen, ‘Who’s watching your kid while you’re interviewing with us?’ We’re going a little bit deeper and asking them about the same things we’re writing and talking about,” Albert says.
Another of the show’s segments, “Moms in Charge,” profiles notable mothers in business. Beneath the catchy names like “Mompreneurs” and “Role Momels,” each portrait, Denise says, speaks to MATC’s belief that “every mom has a story.”
Since their debut, in fact, their no-holds-barred honesty has cranked up the criticism on blogs and message boards. (Case in point: Albert’s New York Daily News editorial on so-called “Mommy Rage”—a piece, she explains, that was simply about “common courtesy”.) But the moms see controversy as an opportunity to spark a conversation.
“I imagine some people probably don’t like all of us because we do have strong opinions, and that’s okay because I think the most important thing is that people are talking about it, and if they can relate to even a snippet of what one of us said, I think we’re doing our job,” says Albert.
And for this energetic threesome, the conversation comes easily. As Gerstein brings out a small container of gummy bears for the table, the discussion jumps quickly from the benefits of a good bra to the challenges of raising kids in New York City, making it apparent why this talkative trio has—and deserves—its own show.
“We are business partners, we are best friends, we are sisters,” Albert says. “We could talk forever.”
Main photo by Andrew Schwartz.
Film Strip Photos from left: Raina Seitel Gittlin and her son; Denise Albert with
husband Jordan and sons Jaron and Jaylan; Melissa Gerstein with husband
Anthony and children Elias, Sydney Rose and Lily.