Ann Curry: Her Firing Should Not Be More Important Than Her Journalism

ByLauren Slavin

As tribes of the Amazon rain forest prepare to fight to retain control of their land by any means necessary, NBC’s Ann Curry stands by, reporting on the Ecuador government’s plan to auction forest land for oil drilling — oil that will be purchased by the United States and used by American citizens at the expense of indigenous cultures and animal welfare.

But Ann Curry’s reporting isn’t putting her name in the news: Her emotional 2012 firing from the Today morning show is.

With the release of New York Times media reporter Brian Stelter’s new book Top of the Morning, which gives an inside look at the practices in competitive morning news programming, Curry’s poorly-handled sacking is back in the limelight.

In June 2012, the 15-year news reader and past year’s co-host of the Today show left to take on a new job as an international correspondent.

On Curry’s final day sitting on the Today show couch, she was given five minutes to say goodbye to her faithful viewers. Videos of her “tearful goodbye” and news stories quoting Curry’s emotional monologue were abundant across media platforms, as if anyone leaving their job of a decade and a half wouldn’t be caught up in nostalgia. This sensitivity only enhanced the coverage to come.

This week, US Weekly ran the headline “STABBED IN THE BACK” over a cover photo of a smiling Curry. Curry’s doe-eyed innocence is prominent in every story, from co-host Matt Lauer’s cold indifference to her removal from the program, to the secret mission to replace Curry with fellow NBC journalist Savannah Guthrie aptly called “Operation Bambi.”

Guthrie moved to Curry’s chair from co-hosting Today’s third-hour, which starts at 9 a.m., previously reported for NBC News as their White House correspondent, and was co-host of MSNBC’s Daily Rundown. But did a new female co-host bump Today back up in the ratings? Of course not; Guthrie’s reporting experience was overshadowed by viewers’ contempt about Curry’s dismissal.

Cattiness is nothing new in the vicious battle for prime television real estate, nor is it limited to women. Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno’s battle over The Tonight Show in 2010, and now Jimmy Fallon’s replacement of Leno, garnered similar, if less dramatic, media attention. But in a field already dominated by men, the last thing women journalists need is to be pitted against one another, or portrayed as emotionally fragile creatures.

During the Boston Marathon bombings, news consumers shook their heads at outlets such as CNN and the New York Post for broadcasting false information and even naming the wrong individuals as perpetrators of terrorism. When the media reflected upon their own shortcomings and successes reporting on the tragedy, two members of the NBC team were named as shining stars — but for very different reasons.

Justice correspondent Pete Williams made sure only to report verified information, and was hailed as an ethical hero. Guthrie, who solely hosted Today and interviewed those familiar with the college-aged suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was only “proving” herself as worthy of her seat next to Lauer. As if the reporting, which won her a Gracie Award from the Alliance for Women in Media for Outstanding Individual Achievement in programming created for women, by women, and about women, didn’t matter.

Guthrie wasn’t proving anything; she was doing her job, which many of her fellow journalists forgot was to report fair, accurate news. And Curry isn’t Bambi frolicking in an enchanted forest; she’s reporting hard-hitting news in the jungle. If only that was worth a front-page story.