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August 12, 2011

Women Running the Show

susan leuci

Santina Leuci (center), with Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos.

Photo Credit: Ida Mae/ABC

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The Morning Warrior
Santina Leuci, 41, Senior Editorial Producer, Good Morning America, ABC

What I do: I'm in charge of 20 producers, and we're on the front line for all breaking-news stories for the network. Competition is fierce in the morning-show wars, and I live off that. It's a blast — I get the best phone calls: One day the Atlanta police called to say they were arresting one of my bookers who was trying to woo a guest from another morning show — while the show was actually on the air, on location in downtown Atlanta. Another producer got locked in a basement by a competitor and couldn't get out. Another snuck into a competitor's studio and made off with the world's fattest cat, and its owner. He had talked his way into the studio by pretending to be one of the cat's owners himself. Most recently, one of my producers nabbed Ted Williams — the homeless man with the "golden voice" — when he walked out of a competitor's studio for a smoke. We basically kidnapped him.

Crazy adventure: One time I was in downtown Manhattan, looking for a prostitute who got away from serial killer Joel Rifkin. I was leaning into the window of my town car, telling my driver my plan, when a policeman came by and said, "Keep it moving, lady." I was like, "What? I am not a hooker!" He said, "Yeah, right, and I'm Sleeping Beauty."

Best part of the job: I love the chase. I've booked everyone from Ashley Dupré to Charlie Sheen to the Iraqi microbiologist known as "Dr. Germ" in the days before the U.S. invasion of Iraq. I've tracked down FBI informants and Ku Klux Klan members. I've spent a day with Sarah Palin, who treated us to caribou. The Palins make a mean caribou.

Worst part of the job: Wishing you could help families of violent crimes. It never gets easier working with people like the families of those killed in the 9/11 attacks and knowing that you cannot change their situation.

Biggest surprise: I was on a stakeout at Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch for two months when he was first accused of an incident with a young boy. One day, Michael called me on speakerphone from inside his home and asked if I wanted a drink.

Greatest challenge: Sleeping. I wake up every couple of hours checking my BlackBerry. It’s part of the deal. We work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Luckily, my husband, Michael, is my biggest cheerleader, and helps me with our two amazing kids, Luca and Gia.

Secret weapon: My father used to work for the New York City Police Department, and I call him all the time, asking for his opinion on cases. He makes me think outside the box—more like a cop or an investigator—when I attack a story.

How I got my start: I started as an intern at a local TV station in Boston. On my first day on the job, I was hooked.

Word to the wise: Work harder than anyone else. Be aggressive. Trust me, it will get you far.

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