NBC's Today is drawing criticism from many who feel that Ann Curry wasn't given a proper sendoff Thursday morning -- and should never have been ousted in the first place.
Curry became emotional while telling viewers that she was ending her run as co-host of the morning show alongside Matt Lauer after just over a year, and would transition into the role of Today show anchor-at-large and NBC News national/international correspondent.
“This is not easy to say, but today is going to be my last morning in a regular role on Today," Curry said through tears. "This is not how I expected to ever leave this couch after 15 years. But I am so grateful, especially to all of you who watch."
Curry's announcement came at 8:50 a.m. and encompassed the remainder of the 9 a.m. hour of the show. Colleagues Lauer, Natalie Morales and Al Roker were sitting with Curry on the couch while she made the announcement and offered her words of praise.
Savannah Guthrie, who is expected to replace Curry and will co-host Friday's show, was not present during the segment. When the program returned from commercial break, cameras went back into the studio, where Guthrie had taken Curry's seat on the couch. She began talking about the stories coming up during the 9 a.m. hour.
"Like many who were watching, it made me sad to see Ann Curry say goodbye today," former Today co-host Deborah Norville wrote in a piece for The Hollywood Reporter. "She's spent practically a generation on Today, so perhaps she deserved more of a send-off during her final farewell. As a viewer, I would have liked to have SEEN highlights of the daring reports about which there was the briefest of mentions at the end of the show. A show that spectacularly covers breaking news surely could have put together a tribute, even if the decision to announce her departure was hastily made."
Many in the media and on Twitter shared those sentiments, criticizing Today producers and talent for the segment and NBC executives for the way the whole matter was handled.
The New York Times' Alessandra Stanley questioned the appropriateness of the highlight reel Today aired featuring some of Curry's on-air moments.
While calling the piece "affectionate," Stanley also noted that "it included goofy moments clowning on the set, and also a tableau that seemed -- under the circumstances -- somewhat insensitive. Ms. Curry, ebullient as ever, leaned in to Mr. Lauer, who was wearing an arm sling. 'Don’t come anywhere near me with a hug,' he said, jokingly, but perhaps not entirely so."
Stanley went on to quote Curry saying she is staying at NBC News to report "at a time when this country and this world needs clarity" and chided the show.
"But it’s Today -- which has yet to name a replacement -- that needs clarity," she wrote. "Ms. Curry is getting a job more suited to her skills, and she deserves better treatment from the network she jumps out of planes for."
THR's Tim Goodman took NBC to task for the way it handled the entire situation.
"NBC dumping Ann Curry from Today seemed like both calculated assassination and bizarrely ill-timed roll of the dice. It also seemed, well, like NBC," he wrote, bringing up the Conan O'Brien-Jay Leno late-night debacle. "Can’t this network do anything right? We’re a long way past 'this is starting to get embarrassing' and nudging up against 'this is starting to get pathological.'"
Joe Flint of the Los Angeles Times also criticized NBC for its "mishandling" of the matter and argued that the show, which is seeing a ratings dip, might need to do more than replace Curry to keep its No. 1 ranking in the morning.
"Because of the Olympics, the new Today team will get plenty of sampling [this summer]," he wrote. "Come September, though, if the show is still struggling to hold off [ABC's] GMA, the NBC brass may have to look at more than who's on camera in trying to figure out how to fix the show."
The New York Daily News' David Hinckley noted that the segment had a different vibe than previous sendoffs for departing co-hosts.
"The tone of her departure was in marked contrast to most past Today transitions, including the one where Curry took over from Vieira last year," he wrote, adding that "the tone of the farewells was colored ... by Curry's obvious reluctance to leave. She clasped hands with Morales and at the end Lauer kissed her on the side of the head."
He also noted that Curry was not mentioned again after that segment ended.
"After she finished and the show broke for local news, the team skipped its usual wrap-up walk out on the Rockefeller Center plaza," he wrote. "The cameras went right back to the studio, where Guthrie was in the seat Curry had occupied. They went straight into promotion for the 9 a.m. hour."
Even MTV News weighed in on Curry's exit. In a post titled "Was It Fair for Today to Only Give Ann Curry a Single-Segment Goodbye?" John Mitchell wrote that Curry "deserved better," noting that "her exit stands in stark contrast to the one" give to Meredith Vieira, whom Curry replaced just over a year ago.
"Watching [Curry's] brief and sincere farewell and subsequent disappearance from the screen, we were saddened that she wasn't given a more proper goodbye," he wrote. "While her year as co-host was rocky, she has been with the show and, in some capacity, with NBC News for nearly two decades. She deserved better. Perhaps not an entire show, like [Meredith] Vieira [whom Curry replaced] got, and certainly not a false, happy-go-lucky farewell celebration, but an extra segment or two celebrating her years-long contribution to the show. Maybe some clips of the wonderful news reporting and serious interviews she contributed. While she lacked the lightness to host, Curry brought a great deal of depth to Today, and that's no small thing -- the show needs both to succeed the way it long has."
He argued that the sendoff didn't properly show viewers "that her years in Rockefeller Center were as appreciated as they deserved to be."
The Huffington Post also noted the difference between the sendoffs given to Vieira and Curry.
"Ann Curry's 'Today' tenure comes to an end," HuffPost Media tweeted. "Meredith Vieira got a two-hour farewell. Curry was given 5 minutes after 15 years on the show."
TMZ's Harvey Levin also was critical of the segment as well as Lauer.
"You could feel tension when Matt Lauer was touting Ann Curry--she turned away when he kissed her," he tweeted. "He wanted her out and made it clear to NBC."
Echoed author James Robinson Jr. (Fighting the Effects of Gravity): "Ann Curry definitely got tossed under the bus today. As she gave her tearful goodbye she didn't get much comfort from her 'loyal' cohorts."
Several viewers also hit Twitter to express their displeasure at Curry's exit. Among the tweets:
@todayshow how could u do that to ann curry after 15+ years. i will be wathing gma from now on..say good bye to this loyal viewer..
@AnnCurry Very upset that Ann Curry is leaving ,,,...good luck with your show (I will be watching something else).
ANN CURRY got a RAW deal. Ratings, my a**! It's nothing but AGEISM & DISCRIMINATION toward women. Shame on you, NBC.
IT'S NOT THE TODAY SHOW WITHOUT ANN CURRY! WHY DOES NOBODY FEEL MY PAIN! D:
- Ann Curry
- NBC News
- Matt Lauer