Ann Curry makes it official: She's off NBC's Today show
This is the sound of a dream job snatched away.
Voice cracking with emotion, anchor Ann Curry told viewers this morning she would no longer be appearing as a regular co-anchor on NBC’s Today show.
"This is not easy to say but today is going to be my last morning as a regular co-host of Today," said Curry, 55, who often welled up with tears throughout her 5-minute speech at the end of the program's second hour. "I will still be a part of the Today show family, but I’m going to have a new title and a new role.
“This is not as I expected to ever leave this couch after 15 years,” she added.
That's the understatement of the year. For months, critics have carped about Curry's performance, saying she over-emotes during interviews, has trouble handling live television and hasn't seemed to connect with her co-anchors.
But the speculation reached a fever pitch last week, when the New York Times published two articles dissecting talk she caused the ratings woes of the once-dominant morning show and reporting that NBC was negotiating her exit.
The stories kicked off a blizzard of reports on Curry's future, while her co-anchors and the network remained conspicuously silent. Even late as Wednesday, Today show executive producer Jim Bell dodged a question on Curry's future during a conference call with reporters speaking on NBC's coverage of the Olympics, as some in the industry wondered why a well-liked anchor such as Curry was left to twist in the media wind.
This morning, Curry herself broke the silence. She'll move into a new job — Today show anchor-at-large and NBC News national/international correspondent — in a move widely seen as an attempt to shake up the show amid an alarming ratings slide for the network’s most profitable program.
Curry replaced co-anchor Meredith Vieira just last year, after 14 years as the show's newsreader and number two female anchor. But when she took over, the show was beating rival Good Morning America by more than 750,000 viewers; in April, ABC’s morning show snapped the program’s 16-year weekly winning streak in ratings.
And fairly or not, Curry took much of the blame.
None of that was mentioned this morning, as Curry announced she would move on to a reporting job, assembling a team of producers to help her develop special reporting projects across NBC News’ many programs.
She took special time to thank viewers in her speech, noting “You are the real Today show family. You are why I have ventured into dangerous places and interviewed dictators and...convinced the Dalai Lama to (appear) live in our studio. I have loved you and I have wanted to give you the world.”
In an interview with USA Today published this morning, Curry first spoke publicly about the controversy around her departure, which some news reports said NBC had been negotiating for a while.
She denied reports that she would be paid $10-million annually to leave the show, also decrying criticism that she and co-anchor Matt Lauer have an awkward onscreen chemistry.
It made for an odd scene this morning; as Curry bid her tearful goodbye the rumored to have been offered her job, Savannah Guthrie, co-anchor of the show’s third hour, was nowhere to be seen.
Curry had been joking with her co-anchors and introducing stories for the better part of two hours with no indication such a major announcement was coming; now they had to bid an awkward goodbye as no one address the elephant in the room -- that this was no Curry's idea in the slightest.
As Lauer, Al Roker and Natalie Morales recalled notable stories she’d covered in the past, Curry only alluded to the media turmoil about her tenure, as one of the highest-profile anchors of color in network television now forced from her dream job.
“For all of you who saw me as a groundbreaker, I’m sorry I couldn’t carry the ball over the finish line but man, I did try,” she said. “I will keep trying and I’m so sorry I turned into a sob sister this morning.”
The only question left: How will viewers respond?
This is the first woman forced off the Today show since Jane Pauley left today in 1989, only to find viewers rejected her replacement Deborah Norville and blamed the network for forcing her out.
Ratings for the show fell and GMA emerged on top; by mid-1991 Norville was out, replaced by rising star Katie Couric.
Which means the woman getting the seat next to Lauer next may not be so lucky.
But Curry kept the focus away from such matters this morning, telling viewers "After all of these years, I don’t even know if I can sleep in anymore. But I know that whatever time I wake up I’ll be missing you.”