We have news this week — this week — that Ann Curry is officially leaving Today with NBC Universal deciding to back a media startup that Curry will be leading. The startup will focus on news and issues of national and international importance with distribution taking place across different platforms and with networks outside of NBC. (It sounds something like Soledad O’Brien’s Starfish Media Group.)
This is great news. Ann Curry is clearly a talented and passionate journalist who, in hindsight, didn’t seem to be the perfect fit for the Today show. A job that calls for a mix of morning show frivolous and hard news coverage, Curry often seemed a little flat and out of sorts. Still, the sight of her in tears bidding farewell in 2012 (!) after she was publicly ousted from her anchor chair is an image that fans (and former fans) of the show won’t forget.
“This is about reaching for the edge of the future in journalism, which we know is undergoing an irrevocable transition,” Curry said in a statement upon announcing the final break up. “I am excited about working to become a valuable link between traditional media and what is to come.”
No need to beat the dead horse on how badly this situation was handled by NBC. But the final point we would like to make on the topic — the vital lesson to learn here — is that issues like this need to be handled in a timely fashion.
This episode hurt the Today show’s reputation and the reputations of its stars, including Matt Lauer. It contributed to a dip in the ratings that the show has still not recovered from. Talks about the tension between the anchors continues, fueled by the memory of Curry’s situation.
Now, years later, the issue reemerges because of this news. This is an instance where the executives really needed to dive in to sort this situation out; come to an agreement about a dignified departure for Curry years ago, perhaps say some things publicly they would rather not, and speak with the remaining members of the team about how the show was going to press forward without drama and anxiety.
It’s ironic that a media outlet, one that reaches millions and millions with news and information every weekday, had such a huge communications lapse. But it’s also a learning experience for everyone. These sorts of reputation burning, uncomfortable quagmires can last and last if you don’t handle them swiftly and with honesty.