Why Ann Curry Failed at NBC and Where She Will Be Next
Last week, Ann Curry left NBC's Today Show after a year as co-host with Matt Lauer and 16 years with NBC.
Good Morning America replaced Today as the number one morning talk show in April and began speculation that Curry would be replaced. In the months following, a media debacle was unleashed as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and other newspapers and outlets began to speculate about when and why Curry was leaving. Leaks from NBC revealed that she would be paid $10 million to leave the show. Reports in April cited that when Lauer had renegotiated his contract, there was a clause specifying that he would not stay much longer with Curry on the couch.
“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,” said NBC News President Steve Capus after her departure. Capus went on to say that he believed Curry's "heart wasn't in it" as a former correspondent and journalist who was far from inspired by the fluffy content of the show with cooking and fashion segments and celebrity interviews.
Some in the media have been sympathetic to Curry's mistreatment, going so far as to even call her a victim, as David Hinckley wrote in the New York Daily News that she suffered public humiliation. Curry was given four minutes and twenty three seconds to say goodbye while Meredith Vieira was given a staggering two hour sign-off.
She had to go to work every day, look into the camera, and smile, knowing full well that the company at which she had built her career and the audience that she loved were tipping her precarious position until she fell at last.
But others have no sympathy for Curry and feel that she merits none. She was a serious journalist who had won three Emmys by the time she was named co-host, including her 2007 award for reporting on NBC Nightly News on the Darfur conflict in the Sudan. On the Today Show, she was meeting celebrities like Justin Bieber and cooking with Martha Stewart in segments that were far from challenging or even engaging for a woman with experience in professional reporting and journalism.
Curry said in her farewell, "man, I did try," and she may very well have. But she certainly was unable to be enthusiastic without appearing to be superficial, gushing over celebrities with the same care that she gave starving children and war crimes victims. Ann Curry is undeniably as attractive (at 55-years old) and capable as Katie Couric and Meredith Vieira. Couric and Vieira may have been more successful because they were more charismatic, had chemistry with Lauer, and perhaps were more political with NBC executives. Curry unfortunately did not have the same on-screen appeal or behind-the-scenes maneuvers to keep her "dream job." Therefore, as a co-host of the lively show that sets the gold standard for all morning television, there is no room for someone who is only getting by. Ann Curry did not establish herself as the star of the show as Couric and Vieira had; she allowed the show to speak for itself, which inevitably only could go so far.
The reality is that Curry was not a good co-host. Ratings fell, either because she was mediocre and viewers stopped watching or because Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos stepped up their game -- or both. Like everything else in life, she gave it a shot, it didn't work out, and now she will move on. It is unfortunate that the attention surrounding her departure was so malicious but now she can focus on her new job, returning to covering the stories that she was passionate about.
Curry accepted a deal from NBC that gives her two glossy titles as international correspondent and NBC News anchor-at-large and a $10 million deal just for leaving Today. She'll be returning to the serious journalism that brought her to fame, then fortune, and back to her forte. Perhaps she'll be able to restore her reputation from embarrassed ex-cohost to four-time Emmy award winning reporter. Whether her replacement, Savannah Guthrie, will be better or worse is unimportant. It will matter whether Curry can make it to the top again or if she'll stay rock bottom.