ABC's Lunden Profiles Perry, Shalikashvili "Behind Closed
By Staff Sgt. Lee Roberts, USAF
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 14, 1996 She's flown in Navy F-18s and with the Air Force Thunderbirds and admits she is a "thrill seeker." But always her visits to military units and government agencies have one purpose -- "to give people access to places that they'll never otherwise get access to."
Joan Lunden, the co-host of ABC's Good Morning America, visited the Pentagon Aug. 6-8 to work on her fourth special in a television series called "Behind Closed Doors," tentatively scheduled to air in a prime-time slot in mid-October.
Lunden said during an interview at the Pentagon Aug. 8 that her show isn't totally made up of regular, sit-down celebrity interviews, but instead tries to show things with human interest. Shows about the military "have been the most talked about, the most interesting spots," she said.
The longest running co-host on early morning television, Lunden added the public sometimes takes the government and military for granted and not everyone really understands what it is the military does. By showing them the Pentagon, it will allow them to know what people do to make sure they are "safe out there every day ... giving them hope and a nice feeling of security."
The film crew does, however, attempt to show the American public the personal side of the military's top leaders. They worked with Department of Defense officials to tape Lunden's interviews with Defense Secretary William J. Perry and Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Lunden likened the interviews with Perry and Shalikashvili to any thrilling experience she received in the air or sea for previous military specials.
"I will tell you that it is just as fulfilling and just as much of a high to have had the two interviews I just did," Lunden said. "I just got really personal interviews with the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that will let people at home not just hear how they are dealing with the crisis of the day or the normal bureaucratic talk, but [see] the people and have a sense of what it is to be in that position.
"And to me, the satisfaction that I get out of those two interviews is really pretty much the same thrill as getting the F-18 ride," she said. "You don't get that chance as a reporter every day. Usually you talk to them about a crisis; they have to report to you the details of the event of the day. These interviews are very different. These are rare opportunities that not every journalist gets."
Lunden also focused on the National Military Command Center and the "Tank," a conference room where the joint chiefs meet to discuss issues during some of the nation's highest crises.
"We deal unfortunately today in a world with crisis after crisis after crisis," Lunden said. "I think people are getting more interested in knowing or just wanting to feel like they understand how our government deals in these times of crisis.
"So to me, this is a very timely spot [Behind Closed Doors]. It was, to me, the most obvious [story] that I wanted to do next so that people understand, because this is where it happens ... in the NMCC," she said. "When a crisis happens, that's where you have your defense secretary, and the joint chiefs, and the president, and everybody comes together to try to deal with the situations that I report on and they read about in the newspaper or see on television. That's why I chose this, [the Pentagon] this time."
Lunden, who began her broadcasting career in Sacramento, Calif., nearly two decades ago, toured the Pentagon and said she was quite surprised at what she saw.
"I had no idea that this was the largest office building. I was just amazed when I went into your area where you have stores, banks -- it's a city in itself,' Lunden said of the Pentagon's main concourse. "I remember being on the [USS] Eisenhower when we did a story, and I got to land on the Eisenhower on an F-18. That also amazed me that it is a floating city with 6,000 people. And here you have over 25,000 people. I had no concept of that."
She said she is quite amazed at what she has witnessed and experienced since she began featuring military units and people four years ago, mainly because of the openness she has received.
"It was very difficult to do these stories in the beginning. Now I think there is more of an openness and a realization that people want to be assured out there, and they would like to -- and obviously there is a line you have to draw so you don't compromise national security -- understand a little bit [about the military]. I think it makes it easier for them to go to sleep at night ... and feel safe."
Before leaving the Pentagon Aug. 8, she flew onboard a U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter, the latest thrill for the popular broadcaster. She then departed from the set, leaving her crew with enough film for yet another edition of her popular television series.
More importantly, the intended audience -- the public, will benefit from Lunden's visit to a place she will never forget ... because they now get a tour "Behind Closed Doors."
(Air Force Staff Sgt. Lee Roberts is assigned with the Public Affairs Office for the chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington.)