The film opens up with Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams) being on a date at a coffee shop with a guy. She talks about her job too much and when she gets up real fast to answer her phone, the guy asks for the check and leaves. Next the scene goes to Becky being at her job, a local New Jersey news program. There is talk that she is going to be promoted, so when she goes into her bosses office she is very excited. But instead she finds out that the station is downsizing and that she is actually being fired. After this she is talking with her mom at her mom's house. They speak about how this has always been Becky's dream to be in newscast but that she is 28 and that this dream doesn't look like it's working and that maybe she should pick a new career path. There is then a collection of scenes as Becky sends out her resume to several different stations but is repeatedly rejected or ignored. Finally, she gets called back by Jerry Barnes (Jeff Goldblum), the main executive in charge of "Daybreak", which is a national morning news show thats last place in the ratings. She goes in to interview for the job of Executive Producer and during the interview she is repeatedly told that the show is in very-bad shape and that it will take a lot to fix it. Though she enthusiastically tries to convince Jerry that she can handle it, he turns her down. A few days later she receives a call from him and he gives her the job.
Becky moves to New York City and then she starts her first day as Executive Producer of "Daybreak". Things are very hectic on set with low morale among the crew and with the show overall being very low-budget (several times the door knobs fall off). The two main hosts of the show dislike each other, with the male anchor being very disliked by the crew. On the first time meeting Becky, the guy offers to "take classy photos of her feet". Being quite creeped out she refuses. At a crew meeting, the male anchor walks in late, and with everyone being fed up with him, she fires him on the spot, with the rest of the crew clapping. Becky has a lot of problems as she has no male anchor for her show. So her and the assistant producer spend a lot of time looking at video tapes of several anchors trying to find someone. Almost all the of anchors on the video tapes are bad fits. By accident, at the end of one of the video tapes she sees a taping of Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) who is a very well known national evening news anchor. Becky instantly decides that he's the one who she wants to be the anchor on "Daybreak".
Becky then goes out all the way to the forrest where Mike is hunting. She sets up the fact that he has 2 years left on his contract with the network and that she wants him to fulfill the two final years of her contract on "Daybreak". He scoffs at the idea and says that "Daybreak" is way below the high reputation that he has. She then says that unless he accepts her offer for "Daybreak" he will lose the $6 million dollars he would earn in the last 2 years of his contract. He gets angry that she threatened him in this way and again denies her.
The next day Becky is on set for "Daybreak" getting ready to go on air. She is speaking to the lead female anchor, Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton) and Colleen says that Mike would of never signed on to the show because he is too egotistical. Suddenly Mike appears at the "Daybreak" set and everyone goes quiet and just looks at him. Becky goes over to talk to him and Mike makes it very clear that he's only there for the money. Over the next few days, Mike and Colleen film promos for the show and everyone on set gets ready for the arrival of the new anchor. Also off set, a romance brews between Becky and Adam Bennett (Patrick Wilson) a producer of a different show at the network.
On the eve of the night that Mike is to make do his first show as lead male anchor on "Daybreak", Becky finds out that he is going bar-hopping across New York City. Becky tracks Mike down and gets him back to his house. She then stays the night at his house to make sure he gets up on time (nothing happens, she only sleeps on the couch). Mike then starts his role as lead male anchor, and after only a few shows we can tell that there is agitation growing between Mike and Colleen as Mike refuses to do any stories that aren't "serious news". So Colleen is stuck covering all the "fun and light" topics and stories. Mike and Colleen even fight each other over who gets to say goodbye last when the show ends (almost every show they both say it repeatedly at the end). After a few weeks with Mike as the new anchor, "Daybreak" executive Jerry Barnes calls Becky into his office. He says that ratings are still very low and that the network is planning to cancel the show in 6 weeks. Becky is devastated and pleads with him for more time but he says he can't do anything. She asks that if they were able to increase the ratings by 25% then would they be able to get more time, and he says that yes they probably could but that isn't going to happen. Becky leaves his office and is motivated to get the ratings up. She decides to push the show to the extremes, doing more interesting stories, and covering them in a different way (it involved a lot of the Weatherman having to do crazy stuff).
Over the next few weeks there is a big change in "Daybreak" and ratings steadily improve. With a week left before the network wants to cancel the show, Becky goes to Jerry to ask if they had improved enough. He says that they have improved quite a bit but aren't exactly there yet. The next day, at a crew meeting for the show, Mike offers to go to a festival up north and cover it. Becky is surprised that Mike is willing to cover a non-"serious news story" so she quickly agrees. The next morning Becky meets Mike at a news van and they start to travel up north. Soon Becky realizes that they're not going the right way to the festival and asks where they're going. Mike refuses to tell her and says that he has a very good story to cover. Becky is angry that she has been deceived and threatens to not air the segment, which Mike just ignores her. Soon they arrive at a very large and nice home. Becky remarks that it's the Governor of New York's mansion. Mike gets out of the van (with a camera-man following) and goes and knocks on the door to which the Governor opens it and warmly greets Mike. (The camera-man stands in the corner out of sight). Mike then asks the governor about rumors that he is being indicted on charges of tax fraud. The governor denies it and says they are just his opponents trying to make him look bad. The camera-man then comes up and starts filming and Becky orders the camera to go live (its then broadcast live nationwide). Suddenly several police cars show up and they arrest the governor for tax fraud (this is all caught on camera).
Later Becky compliments Mike and says that he did a very good job getting "Daybreak" to be the first ones to cover such a huge story. Mike also tells Becky that doing this show has reinvigorated his life and he thanks her a lot for that. The next day Becky visits Jerry and he tells her that ratings are way up and that the show is approved for at least another year. He also says that the "Today Show" called and wanted to know how much time she has left in her contract cause they're interested in hiring her. (This is huge news to Becky as "The Today Show" is the #1 rated morning news show). Becky is very happy in her current job so she just ignores it. After her good experience with Mike she asks him to do another story such as that and Mike angrily says that just because they had one good story together does mean that Mike will do anything and that he will follow Becky's orders. Becky is offended by what Mike has said so when she is told that "The Today Show" has called again she accepts their request for her to do a job interview. Soon she goes to NBC studios and starts her interview. Back on the "Daybreak" set, Mike asks where Becky is. Colleen tells him that she's doing an interview for "The Today Show" and that it's mostly Mike's fault that she was driven away. Mike feels very bad and he then quickly goes and grabs a bunch of ingredients then goes on air and starts cooking something. Becky sees this on TV while she is interviewing and she starts crying (because Mike refused to ever do anything such as cooking on air, and this shows that he has changed and isn't so hard anymore). Becky leaves her interview and quickly goes back to the "Daybreak" set. She decides to keep working for the show.
The movie ends as things have improved a lot and things are running great.
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