Us Weekly Switcheroo? ‘Today’ Hosts ‘Fired’ Headline Quietly Changed to ‘Were Told They Were Fired’

“We stand by our original story and body of the story, but realized we worded the headline wrong, so we updated the headline to reflect that,” a magazine spokesperson tells TheWrap

Last Updated: November 20, 2014 @ 1:16 PM

See anything wrong with this before and after?

There’s an honest truth, you the reader, should know. As journalists, we make mistakes. I’ve made them, my colleagues have made them, and some of the greatest journalists in history have screwed up. We’d love to consider ourselves superhuman, but in fact we’re similar to you the reader, with our main advantage being better access to free pens, notepads, and insiders at the various platforms we cover.

With increasingly shorter deadlines, added responsibilities, and the pressures to be both first and right, media figures on TV and online are more apt to make mistakes now than ever before. And the good ones, when they do, are transparent, explain how their reporting went wrong, and promise to try harder.

TheWrap does not routinely report or take pleasure in spotlighting other media outlets’ mistakes: they happen, and they are not always the most important story of the day. However, it seems evident that Us Weekly made a serious error in either its reporting or headline writing Wednesday, and instead of transparently acknowledging it or adding a correction, it quietly changed the story headline hoping nobody would be the wiser.

Here’s how it went down:

Early Wednesday morning, Us went up with a story dubbed:

“Exclusive: Natalie Morales, Willie Geist Fired From the Today Show in Massive Shake-Up: Get the Details” [Emphasis is mine]

Understandably, this sparked a storm of phone calls, frantic emails, and tweets by reporters like yours truly to find out what the deal was. I then turned on my TV, and there they were: Geist and Morales, on the “Today” show.

While doing my own independent reporting, I read the Us story. The most important graph is this:

Co-hosts Willie Geist and Natalie Morales “were recently told they were fired,” an NBC source reveals exclusively in the new issue of Us Weekly. Morales, 42, is now in talks with ABC and Geist, 39, has lined up a gig at CBS, the insider tells Us.

For those not familiar with human resources vernacular or basic common sense, there’s a distinct difference between being fired and being “told they were fired.” One involves security guards escorting you out of a building while you carry your box filled with cashews, highlighters, and puppy photos. The other involves human resources calling you in telling you that your contract is not being renewed, or you’re being laid off but will be kept on until a certain date, with you then being able to go back to your desk or bathroom and deal with your emotions — still employed.

So the Us headline did not at all match its actual story, and NBC News came firing back against it on Wednesday afternoon with the following statement from President Deborah Turness:

“In response to the false rumors that have been circulated about our anchor team, NBC wants to be absolutely clear: The rumors are wrong — period. This is the team we are committed to. And this is the team that our viewers turn to in the morning.”

It is not clear whether Us Weekly changed its headline before or after the NBC statement, but they indeed changed it at some point in the day to:

“Exclusive: Natalie Morales, Willie Geist Were Told They Were Fired From the Today Show in Massive Shake-Up: Get the Details” [Emphasis is mine]

This caught my eye as an apparent under-the-cover attempt by Us to cover up the fact that it got the story wrong. TheWrap reached out to Us Magazine to ask about the headline change without a correction.

“We stand by our original story and body of the story, but realized we worded the headline wrong, so we updated the headline to reflect that,” an Us Weekly spokesperson told TheWrap.

We also reached out to the writer of the story, Sierra Marquina, for comment on the story, but did not yet receive a response.

Thursday morning, Willie Geist and Natalie Morales addressed Us’ report — not naming Us by name — first joking about the reports. Geist then said, “When this totally erroneous out of the sky report came out, the support and concern blew me away.”

Bottomline: Us Weekly is either right in its reporting and Geist and Morales will eventually be casualities, or they were misled by a source (like I and my colleagues have been before), and got the story completely wrong.

Either way — you have the before and after headlines above. You be the judge.