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NBC’s TODAY faces a PR crisis with Ann Curry exit: Viewers, employees impacted

» Posted by on Jun 28, 2012


After years of being the reigning champs, NBC’s TODAY show is undergoing a cataclysmic change. The network’s most profitable program is no longer dominating in the ratings. And this morning, new co-anchor Ann Curry took the fall for it and Ann Curry said goodbye.

Is it entirely her fault? Who really knows. But that is not for me to say.

In situations when lots of money is on the line people look out for themselves.

That means the highest level of executives at NBC News were forced to do something. Or at least give the impression that they are doing something to “fix” the program.

Make no mistake about it: NBC and NBC News are in a PR crisis and internal crisis and the viewers and employees are impacted by this.

Ann Curry is taking the fall for the falling ratings, when it may not be Ann Curry who is to blame for it.

Ann Curry says goodbye, but PR crisis not over

TODAY show's Ann Curry says goodbye this morning.

Ann Curry seems to be universally liked by viewers and by her co-workers. That’s what makes this so much harder for everyone to digest. And it reinforces to the public and to employees that at the end of the day the TODAY show is a business.

“We often call ourselves a family, but you are the real “Today” show family,” Curry told viewers this morning on TODAY.

So much for that TODAY show “family” it has projected itself to be. Is family really supposed to be treated like this?

And there’s the rub.

Ann Curry and the show this morning tried to put the nicest bow on the news possible: She announced that she will be “taking on a new challenge at NBC News.”

Matt Lauer lauded his co-anchor of one year.

“You have the biggest heart in the business,” Lauer said. “You put that on display every single day in this studio and you have for almost 20 years on this show.”

This news totally hurts when you like the person or persons affected.

Internally at NBC News and TODAY, I hope they have a plan. Crisis, unfortunately, often brings out the worst in people because we stop playing as a team and begin playing for ourselves–ironically at a time when it would be absolutely most productive to work as a team.

In the news world, TODAY is usually the scrutinizer. But now the show is undergoing scrutiny by outsiders.

For the last week, NBC News and TODAY have received the same type of pontification that they are used to dishing out.

They are living the news version of THE DOCTORS, that movie which starred William Hurt about a doctor who became the patient.

During this time of uneasiness at TODAY, top leadership will be vital. Employees won’t naturally work as a team. People will be looking out for themselves. And they will fear for their own jobs.

TODAY has had it good for many years. But let’s tell it like it is: Sailing a ship is always easiest when it’s full steam ahead. It’s most difficult during bad or horrific weather and high seas.

Bottom line: it’s not going to be fun for employees in the near term. And they will need to put on a brave face for viewers.

Fortunately for everyone, soon the Olympics will begin and everyone’s focus will shift to that.

In times of true tests we as a people come together or break apart. The challenge for TODAY during this crisis will be to make sure they come together and in doing so make viewers feel comfortable during this time of uncertainty and change.

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Glenn Selig founded The Publicity Agency in 2007 and has represented some of the biggest newsmakers and most influential business leaders and companies nationwide. He is a frequent guest on MSNBC, Fox News Channel and on CNN. Reporters call him for an expert PR opinion on high profile cases to offer perspective. He also appears on air to publicly defend his clients. View the PR firm website and follow him on Twitter @GlennSelig
  • Chris

    I think this will become the model for how NOT to handle transitions in television. They thought the Pauley/Norville handoff was handled poorly? This debacle makes that look like a textbook passing of the baton. I would love to know what genius thought it was a good idea to allow an obviously distraught and disappointed employee loved by millions to go on national television and admit she was dissed.

    I have watched the TODAY Show since the days of Barbara Walters. It is true that they feel like your “family”. When they promoted Curry to co-anchor I questioned it, but I was willing to give it a shot. I was just getting used to it when NBC pulled the rug out from underneath her and publicly made her walk the plank and announce her own demotion. At that point I became a HUGE Ann Curry fan. It’s like having a sister you know is a little weird. You can say whatever you want about her but when someone ELSE knocks her around her you jump to defend her.

    A smarter move, if they truly thought she was not the right fit, would’ve been to call her into the office and come up with some nice exit plan that moved her into another role and preserved the reputation of the show and its key players. Now they’ve damaged an American Institution, and more importantly their monarch superstar, Matt Lauer. I have no idea if the rumors are true about him orchestrating Curry’s dismissal but the fact of the matter is he is now seen as the monster that got sweet Ann fired.

    The treatment of Ann Curry was sickening. As I said, I watched TODAY for 4 decades. I can’t stomach the entertainment show known as Good Morning America so I am not sure where I will go. But after watching the public execution of Ann Curry I certainly won’t be watching TODAY.

  • Stacy

    did you see this In Forbes? Ouch!

  • Sammy

    Aw c’mon. Television is a business (its product is audience) and nothing more. Ann Curry and all the others are mere puppets and they are dispensable. NBC owes no allegiance to Ann Curry or any of the other anchors or reporters other than what is in their contract.

    I quit watching the Today Show when Curry moved from the news desk to the host couch — as did many other people. And it was clear that a good many other people did the same. Clearly, the rating drop was not coincidental.

    It’s a business.

  • Yvonne

    i have been a loyal today watcher for years. But this makes me question my loyalty. I may give GMA a chance now.