UPDATE: NBC has announced, officially, that Savanna Guthrie will succeed Ann Curry as co-host of Today. In a statement Today Executive Producer Jim Bell noted:
“As soon as Savannah joined NBC News she was a standout, reporting for every franchise in the news division and rising through the ranks. She has a one-of-a-kind combination of sharp wit and approachability, and our viewers value her journalistic skills and legal background just as much as her humor and charm. She can effortlessly go from interviewing the Secretary of State to jumping Olympic-sized hurdles on the plaza. I’m thrilled to welcome Savannah as our newest co-anchor..."
As most are familiar, Today has waged an increasingly tight ratings battle against ABC’s Good Morning America. Matt Lauer and team have seemingly stumbled a bit amid the morning show rat race. Who’s to blame? Maybe the competition is finding new ways to poach viewers (CBS has a new format, GMA brought on Katie Couric for a week-long guest hosting gig) or maybe NBC shot itself in the foot a little over a year ago when it gave Meredith Vieira’s seat on the couch to Ann Curry. Regardless, the fact remains that after 15 years at the top, Today is no longer the clear leader of the pack and NBC brass has pegged Curry as the reason.
Yesterday morning, Curry sorrowfully bid adieu to her Today audience. After 14 years with the program, Curry was shown the door and made the scapegoat for the program’s recent ratings slip. Fair or not, her dream job was ripped from her hands only to be passed on to another (with all signs pointing to third hour host, Savanna Guthrie).
Now don’t get me wrong, as I’ve written before, I have not been, nor would I likely ever be, Curry’s biggest fan. I have found her to be patronizing, difficult to connect with and uncomfortably awkward to watch. But all that being said, a piece of me feels for Curry who, in all fairness, was not given a fair shake.
Last year, as Vieira said goodbye on Today, she recounted what Matt Lauer said to her on her first day at the desk, “Remember this is not a sprint, this is long distance run.” I can’t help but think that Curry wasn’t given a chance to find her pacer and lock in a stride. Maybe she never would have found her step, or perhaps, she would have brought something new to morning show TV – which has become soft in its reporting as it seeks to capture more eyes and dollars.
The fact of the matter is that the broadcast and cable news isn’t just the news anymore. It’s all too often a play for ad spend and viewership. As the audience, we can pick and choose the network, tenor and depth of the reporting we seek and as a result networks pander to Nielsen ratings and whether they can capture the demo. It’s a frustrating reality and one that Aaron Sorkin is seeking to spotlight in his new HBO show The Newsroom (clip below). But that’s a story for another post.
As we turn back to Today, we bid farewell to Curry (who isn’t going all that far with a cushy title of “Today show anchor-at-large and NBC News national/international correspondent”). And in so doing, NBC will be left hoping that its next morning co-host can more quickly catch their stride as they run toward ratings gold.