It was major media news last summer when Ann Curry was unceremoniously replaced as co-host of NBC's "Today" show. Curry's tearful on-air goodbye was
the painful climax of a messy struggle that played out in the press, most notably through stories in the New York Times.
In June, the Times reported that Curry was being replaced, and once that was out in public, Curry's position became untenable. On June 28, she left the show, and it's never been the same since.
Oregonians watched it all come down with particular interest, because of Curry's roots in the state. She graduated from Ashland High School, attended the University of Oregon and got early on-air TV jobs at a station in Medford and with KGW.
There was much to regard with dismay about Curry's departure from "Today," which was handled spectacularly poorly. The negative ripples continue to this day, as "Today" labors to regain its onetime ratings dominance. Co-host Matt Lauer, who took much of the blame for pressing to have Curry ousted, has suffered an image crash from which he hasn't come close to recovering.
That saga is once again making news, with the release of "Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV," the new book by Brian Stelter, the New York Times media reporter whose stories were a big part of how the Curry/"Today" fiasco first became gossip fodder.
Stelter's book looks at the "Today" show, as well as the rise of "Good Morning America," the ABC rival that's been steadily chipping away at the "Today" show ratings.
Though Stelter notes that his hundreds of interviews didn't include Curry or Lauer, both of whom, he writes, "declined to be interviewed for the book in the wake of Curry's ouster," it's the material about Curry that's been generating most of the attention for the book. The book excerpt that ran as the cover story in The New York Times Magazine on Sunday was full of juicy dish. For example:
--Jim Bell, the NBC executive who zeroed in on Curry as the cause of the "Today" show ratings decline, called his plan for replacing Curry "Operation Bambi" (after another TV industry veteran said forcing Curry out would be akin to "killing Bambi"). Bell, Stelter adds, denies that he used the term "Operation Bambi."
--That members of the "Today" show staff displayed a "general meanness" to Curry, supposedly making fun of her wardrobe (a yellow ensemble she wore prompted comparisons to Big Bird); and Bell commissioning, Stelter writes, "a blooper reel of Curry's worst on-air mistakes" (which Bell also denies, Stelter notes).
--Stelter has tart comments about Curry's performance in her brief time as co-host of "Today." He writes: "Curry was out of her depth almost immediately. During her first morning as co-host, on June 9, 2011, she made a joke about not wearing deodorant that made Lauer look genuinely embarrassed."
--But once Curry was gone, Stelter continues, "Today" didn't miraculously regain its consistent ratings leadership. "Good Morning America" was gaining viewers as "Today" was losing them because, as a NBC staff member report concluded, because the ABC group looks "like they are having more fun."
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