Ann Curry may not be perfect, but you could argue she deserves better than to be shivved by her NBC bosses in the New York Times twice in four days.
She got it for the second time on Sunday, when an anonymous NBC executive singled out the “Today” show co-host for being too empathetic, in a major take-out by TV critic Mike Hale.
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“When she relates to people one on one, there’s a real empathy she has,” said the executive, winding up for the kill. “Sometimes in the studio that seems overwhelming. It’s like, come on now, we’re talking serious issues.”
Nice. Curry’s fate was sealed last week when the Times’ Brian Stelter broke the news that Curry was going to be replaced at the top-earning show which hired her to replace Meredith Vieira and has seen declining ratings since.
(NBC continues a long-standing tradition of leaking major news to the Times, though in the Jeff Zucker era it was consistently under Bill Carter’s byline.)
It appears that Hale’s take-out might have precipitated things. The West Coast print edition did not have the news that Curry was on her way out; it would not be the first time that scrutiny by a major news outlet started a chain of events.
Regardless, the conclusion of the take-out was pretty clear. Hale examined Curry on the “Today” show for a month and the anchor came up wanting.
Oddly, Hale actually criticized her for the opposite of empathy: according to him, Curry is too distant.
He writes: “Sometimes a reporter’s doggedness shows through in situations where a more complicit, reassuring tone is probably what the morning audience, and the show’s producers, would prefer.”
So what’s wrong with Curry? Is she too cuddly? Or too removed?
Hale points out that Curry seems uncomfortable sitting next to the charismatic, relaxed Lauer. He makes a random reference to Curry’s part-Japanese cultural roots, without drawing any direct conclusion as to how that might figure in her seeming distant.
In the nuclear family of “Today” show talent, says Hale, “Ms. Curry, 55, should figure as the sensible older sister, along the lines of Ms. Vieira, who grew up and moved out… But as you watch the show, there’s an inescapable sense that Ms. Curry is outside the group in a subtle but unmistakable way, like the stepsister Cinderella without a prince.”
And now without a job. The petition to save Ann Curry on change.org has now ballooned to 17,000 signatures since Friday.
But the Times says she’ll be out this week. And so far NBC is not denying it.