With Today Show colleagues Matt Lauer, Al Roker and Natalie Morales by her side, Ann Curry broke down as she told Today viewers “goodbye” Thursday morning. What’s next for Curry? And who will replace her as Lauer’s fellow host for the coveted spot?
Ann Curry said her tearful goodbye on the Today Show this morning, and it made us all want to lunge at the TV and beg her not to go!
We knew it was going to be emotional.
Ann Curry had, for the first time, confirmed she was leaving Today during a phone interview with USA Today on Wednesday.
Voice quavering, she told the newspaper that Thursday morning’s announcement to viewers was going to make for “a tough day.”
And the live announcement appeared to be just that — tough.
The long goodbye
Wiping back tears, and with her voice shaking many times as she struggled to get through the farewell, Curry told viewers: “Today is going to be my last morning as a regular co-host of Today.”
Going on, she said, “I’m so grateful to all of you who watch,” calling both her Today colleagues and viewers her “family.”
“I’ve wanted to give you the world.”
The 55-year-old credited viewers as the reason she’d jump out of planes, travel to brutally cold climates, or fight fiercely to get insight from the likes of the Dalai Lama.
In a usually stoic industry, Matt Lauer, too, appeared to get emotional as he told Curry: “You have the biggest heart in the business.”
The program also shared a look-back at Curry’s career.
But the network is definitely spinning this not-surprising-at-all news as the next bigger and better chapter in the veteran journalist’s career.
Where to now?
Echoing Lauer’s sentiments: “It’s not goodbye, not by a long shot,” Curry also announced that she has a fancy new title. She’ll be “anchor at large” and “national and international correspondent” for NBC News.
According to information from the peacock network, Curry will “lead a new team covering stories spanning the globe.”
She’ll also “anchor prime-time specials and report for Today, Nightly News, Rock Center, Dateline and MSNBC, and will have a major presence across all digital properties.”
“We’re going to go all over the world and all over this country at a time where this world needs clarity,” Curry said, joking that, “After all these years I don’t even know if I can sleep in anymore.”
In the 40-minute USA Today interview, she rejected rampant speculation that the network is paying her $10 million to $20 million to make her go away as Today co-host.
“I can say I’d love to earn that much,” Curry said.
Being booted from Today may be the best scenario for Curry as well, as she admits she’s been frustrated by her inability to travel overseas frequently and cover big stories in hot spots from Syria to Egypt.
“In my secret heart of hearts, I see this as a thrilling opportunity,” Curry said. “To have a ticket to every big story in the world — no small matter.”
How NBC arrived at this decision?
When it was first announced Curry may be getting the boot, many viewers weighed in about the anchor’s performance thus far.
She worked with Lauer on the show for 14 years, but only held the coveted co-host role for one year — out of a three-year contract.
As speculation loomed about Curry’s exit, aside from questionable interview skills, one criticism re-emerged time and time again: Her “wooden” personality. She wasn’t a “people person.”
But Curry sounded very sincere and uncharacteristically “human” for an industry often perceived as formulaic in both her send-off and the USA Today interview that finally confirmed all our suspicions.
“I don’t want to leave them,” Curry said of viewers Wednesday. “I love them. And I will really miss them.”
In the days leading up to the announcement, Curry was often attacked by “sources close to the show” for her “lack of chemistry” with Lauer.
“I don’t know who has been behind the leaks, but no question they’ve hurt deeply,” she said. “You know, Matt and I have had great on-air chemistry for 14 years, been part of the No. 1 winning team for a history-making number of years.”
“That said, I just finished my freshman year as co-host. In every single co-host’s first year, there have been kinks to be worked out, and perhaps I deserve as much blame for that as anyone.”
Curry also says she wasn’t given time to work out those kinks. And Curry dismisses the critics who point fingers at her for the ratings plunge, leading up to Good Morning America tying the morning TV news pioneer’s ratings.
What does Today’s “tomorrow” look like?
According to Bloomberg, and confirming earlier news reports, 9 a.m. co-host Savannah Guthrie is poised to replace Curry.
She’s said to be negotiating with the peacock network to start as Lauer’s sidekick in July.
However, once again, Hoda Kotb — Kathie Lee’s chatty fellow host on the fluffy fourth hour — is trending.
And RadarOnline.com has reported Kotb is well-liked by viewers, scoring “off the charts” in focus groups with an audience that “gets her.”
And that “relate-ability” factor appears to be a quality that was missing with Curry. But try telling that to the more than 25,000 fans who thought so much of Curry that they petitioned to keep her on the show.