Ann Curry is a world-class journalist.
But she’s never been a great fit as co-host of the Today show. Just about everyone at NBC, and in the television business, recognizes that.
As Curry, who loves to race to the scene of humanitarian disasters, told me last fall: “I'm at my core a hard-news reporter. I want more spinach and less sugar in this big meal we give viewers. Sometimes I feel personally our balance isn't quite right. I fight for stories that matter.”
So I’m not surprised to learn that NBC has begun talks to move her off the program, just a year after she ascended to the job. If this New York Times report is right, she’ll be gone before the Olympics.
Is it because she’s not a good reporter, good talker, good interviewer? Of course not. It’s in large measure because, as Matt Lauer has privately told people, the two of them lack chemistry.
That elusive quality, the Matt-and-Meredith, Charlie-and-Diane bond that works in the morning, when people are scarfing breakfast and getting their kids off to school, is crucial.
Oh, and it doesn’t help that Good Morning America has beaten Today a couple of times after breaking its 16-year winning streak.
Curry told me she enjoyed the program’s lighter side as a respite from places like Haiti. But she also confessed to “a lot of trepidation” about taking the job: "I feel like Cinderella, like I'm dancing with the prince at the ball and I'm wearing a pretty dress."
Has her turn-back-to-a-pumpkin moment arrived?
Curry got the plum assignment in part because she was passed over last time, when Meredith Vieira got the nod, and the network brass didn’t want her to leave.
Lauer, who recently signed a mega-deal worth at least $25 million a year, is quite obviously the future of the franchise. If he's not feeling a comfortable rapport with his on-air partner, the network has to take that very seriously.
NBC, which isn’t commenting, would prefer to ease Curry's path, if only to avoid the kind of friction that took place when Deborah Norville replaced Jane Pauley and then was booted off the show. But if the Matt-and-Ann pairing isn’t working, there is too much at stake in the lucrative morning market for NBC to let the situation drag on. It’s obvious that the network has been grooming Savannah Guthrie, who had co-hosted an MSNBC show with Chuck Todd before becoming the Today news anchor, as a possible replacement.
If Curry indeed steps down after so many years of service, she deserves a plum assignment—perhaps one better suited to her considerable talents.