Al Roker surprises journalism students at early-morning Today show broadcast

(Courtney Pedroza/DD)
Al Roker, a host of NBC’s Today show, surprised Downtown students at the Taylor Place residence hall early Wednesday morning. The students were being filmed live for the Today show. (Courtney Pedroza/DD)

Today show weather anchor Al Roker surprised Walter Cronkite School students early Wednesday morning when he ran in to the Taylor Place residence hall disguised with a Sparky mascot head.

About 150 students were gathered to be filmed live for the Today show to highlight the NBC-themed decorations on their floors in the dormitory.

Just getting to appear live on a national program and be interviewed via satellite by Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie was a dream come true for the students, many of whom had been up all night preparing for the taping. The room erupted into cheers and a few students even burst into tears when Roker ran in.

“For us to get on the show was a dream in itself,” journalism junior Kari Osep said. “It was absolutely surreal.”

Osep is the Residential College Student Leader for Cronkite Village, the Cronkite School’s residential college in Taylor Place. Cronkite Village spans the 10th and 11th floors, whose halls were decorated with NBC-themed posters, name plates and inspirational messages featuring the network’s lead personalities.

(Courtney Pedroza/DD)
(Courtney Pedroza/DD)

Osep helped plan the live taping event with Torunn Sinclair, the Community Assistant for Floor 11 Tower 1, which was dedicated strictly to the Today show.

“I love the Today show,” Sinclair said. “I’ve been watching it since I was a little girl.”

When Osep and Sinclair first started discussing potential themes for the Cronkite Village floors and decided to make one centered around the Today show, they joked about the decorations catching the attention of the show’s anchors. Neither had any idea this would soon become a reality.

After the students moved in at the start of the year, they posted photos of the decorations on social media sites and even made a video showing their love for the Today show. Channel 12 did a story about the floor, wrote an article for their website, and a week ago, students found out the national Today show would be filming them live.

“Torunn and Kari have so much love and dedication for the Today show,” journalism freshman Emily Berkin said. “There’s a passion for it. It became a huge part of the culture of our floor.”

The students gathered in the Taylor Place cafeteria at midnight to move their decorations down to Devil’s Den — the site of the taping — and create signs. Several students even had signs mentioning Roker specifically.

The students stayed up all night preparing for the live taping. Excitement and school spirit, along with liberal amounts of caffeine, kept them awake. Many had class at 7:30 a.m. immediately following the taping, but had no regrets about losing sleep for the perk of being on national television, not to mention meeting Roker.

“This is a dream come true for all of us,” Berkin said. “To have this firsthand experience with this role model in our industry … this was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

In between taping segments for the Today show and Channel 12 broadcasts, Roker joked with students about the Arizona weather and ASU’s reputation as a party school. He also answered questions from students about the industry and gave advice to the future journalists.

“It’s an unforgettable memory that we got to be a part of and our residents got to be a part of,” Osep said.

Editor’s note: Torunn Sinclair was formerly the director of communications for the Downtown Devil. She did not contribute to the reporting of this article.

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