Last Thursday, former “Today” show co-host Ann Curry confirmed what the world speculated through a heartfelt apology. Press leaks and rumors abound, we watched Curry carry on through the week to see whether NBC would fire her or if she would leave by her own volition. Her statement that fateful morning resonated with viewers and audiences, even if she wasn’t their favorite.
“This is not easy to say, but today is going to be my last morning as a regular co-host of ‘Today,’” Curry said. “I will still be a part of the ‘Today’ show family, but I’ll have a new title and a new role, and this is not how I expected to ever leave this couch after 15 years. But I am so grateful, especially to all of you who watch.”
Curry’s sendoff was unfair in my opinion. After waking up that next morning to see her replacement, Savannah Guthrie, move on without skipping a beat, it was no wonder people responded on social networks outraged by the bitter exit. It was as if we’d been duped for a year and forced to accept Guthrie without any acknowledgment of the good things that Curry brought to “Today.” It lacked taste and decorum for a major network to just offer the simple explanation that “Curry lacked real passion for entertainment related issues such as cooking segments and celebrities interviews which make up a big part of the hit show.”
According to NBC News president Steve Capus, “We gave her a year to prove herself, and ultimately we came to the conclusion that she had played at the highest level she could,” Capus told The Hollywood Reporter. “When you’re in the major leagues of our profession, you’ve got to continue to be at peak performance in order to stay there.” Giving Curry only a year to gel with co-host Matt Lauer and allow audiences to warm up to her seemed a bit premature. I just don’t think it was enough time for Curry to prove herself in a position that at one point NBC thought she was qualified for.
Blaming her for not being able to respond to the show’s lighter segments attests to the role we’re conforming to as news consumers. I know morning shows tend to offer audiences “softer” news. For Capus to state that Curry, in her role as a serious journalist, was uncomfortable with delivering on cooking show segments and interviewing celebrities was a poor judgment call on his behalf, considering there are some audience members that want “hard” news on the morning, afternoon and evening shows.
Ratings, circulation and page views all define the success of the media today, and there’s no doubt ratings were a factor for NBC in competing with ABC’s “Good Morning America.” But I don’t think Curry was totally to blame for the slump. I also think the rumors about her chemistry with Lauer are completely unfounded. No one questioned Curry as a reporter, but the fact she couldn’t bring the numbers in her new position determined her fate.
We know that the line is blurred between entertainment and news today, but that’s where I think Curry and Lauer did a good job. He was more apt at transitioning from lighter segments to more serious ones and she brought her skills as an international reporter to the table during those serious interviews and topics. Curry told The Daily Beast, “I’m at my core a hard-news reporter.I want more spinach and less sugar in this big meal we give viewers.” It’s unfortunate for Curry that America, perhaps, wasn’t ready for a balanced diet of hard news and entertainment.
But how do we know that Curry was to blame for the ratings and not just the show’s content? How do we know that viewers weren’t simply changing the channel because “Good Morning America” was offering the news tailored to fit them? Maybe “Today” needed a face lift in content and not just in staff. I think focus groups or surveys should’ve been administered to determine Curry’s success rate and how viewers felt about her. In the same way ratings influenced their decision, hardcore consumer data should’ve been incorporated to support or refute her morning show failure.
The way Curry continued on knowing what people were whispering or what was being reported on about her leaving the morning show was admirable. However, what was not admirable was NBC’s lack of protecting her status with “Today” from the media and general public. How did the media and general public get so much information early on? Protecting Curry’s integrity as a journalist in her role at NBC, whether it was for a week or two months, should have been more valued by the network.
By the time they gave official statements to the press, it didn’t matter because the world was responding with countdowns on Twitter as to how much longer Curry would be on the show. According to USA TODAY, Reporters and paparazzi camped outside her home waiting for confirmation, presumably. It’s really hard for me to believe that a major network couldn’t keep this quiet until they and Curry were ready to reveal the decision. It was equally as hard for me to watch Curry fight back tears as her efforts were shaded in the media by her own network.
While fans of Curry’s reporting and her style will still get to see her on NBC in a new role, it doesn’t mean the decision was any less unfortunate for news consumers, female journalists and loyal “Today” show audiences. Since this is NBC’s second time playing tag with hosts (ahem, Conan O’Brien), Guthrie might not want to get use to sitting on that couch next to Lauer anytime soon if numbers matter more than the job she’s doing. But Curry had no reason to apologize to those, including me, who saw her as a “groundbreaker.” She definitely “carried the ball over the finish line.” I just don’t think her network supported her in the race or cheered for her to win.
What do you think of the way NBC handled Ann Curry’s exit? Was she to blame for ratings and could anything else have been done to improve the ratings? How do you think Ann Curry will perform in her new role with NBC?Tags: Ann Curry, apology, exit, farewell, hard news, June 28, leaks, leaving, Matt Lauer, NBC, ratings, replacement, Savannah Guthrie, soft news, Steve Capus, Thursday, Today Show