The Ethics Of Getting Fired: Ann Curry’s Today Show Exit

“We love you, Ann!” “I hate you, Matt!”

I was going to make Ann Curry’s method of leaving the Today Show’s anchor chair an Ethics Quiz, but decided that there weren’t sufficiently compelling arguments for more than one conclusion: her farewell drama yesterday morning was unprofessional, and in her job and her industry, but also many others, professional obligations trump candor.

I will admit up front that I never liked Ann Curry, either as a news reader nor as Matt Lauer’s partner after Meridith Viera left the show. Her open-faced demeanor, which made it crystal clear with every story and interview where her own sympathies lay, was the antithesis of objective and fair reporting, regardless of the steadily increasing number of similar practitioners, like CNN’s eye-rolling, squinting, smirking morning tag-team of Soledad O’Brien and Carol Costello. Thus it was no surprise that having received the gift of being able to have an on-air good-bye and the trust of her NBC bosses to handle her farewell properly, Curry chose instead to (or perhaps it is fairer to say “couldn’t control herself sufficiently not to..”) make it obvious to viewers that she had been dumped, that she was hurt and angry about it, and that she blamed Matt Lauer, her co-host, who was widely reported to have made her ouster a condition of his new contract. The emotions Curry was wearing on her sleeve were especially glaring while Lauer was making the traditional speech about how much Curry would be missed and ended by trying to give her a show-biz hug and kiss. Curry refused to look at Lauer while he was talking, and ducked his kiss, looking for all the world like she was hugging Jerry Sandusky or someone similarly appealing. As we say in the theater in such situations: “Nice cover, Ann!”

Why am I favoring pretense over transparency? Why was Lauer’s apparently insincere gushing over the woman he had apparently stabbed in the back preferable to Curry’s teary-eyed victim routine? The answer is that both Lauer and Curry are paid performers as well as journalists. Curry may have negotiated as much as a ten million dollar buy-out, and will still be employed by Today as roving reporter, which is not exactly doing laundry for a living. Her  obligation was to make the show and NBC look good by being upbeat and professional in every respect, not showing anger, and playing the part of a good and loyal soldier moving on to the next assignment.

The fact that she couldn’t do that, I submit, is one reason why she was a poor choice as a Today Show host in the first place. Whether she was inadequately trained or whether she was allowed to embrace bad habits as NBC eagerly promoted her through the ranks to add Eurasian diversity to its morning faces, Curry never seemed to understand that reporting the news and being a broadcast journalist wasn’t about her. Her weepy statement yesterday that “For all of you who saw me as a groundbreaker, I’m sorry I couldn’t carry the ball over the finish line, but, man, I did try!” was embarrassing, the Today host version of Richard Nixon’s infamous line after losing his bid to become governor of California:

“…But as I leave you I want you to know…. just think how much you’re going to be missing. You don’t have Nixon to kick around any more…”

This is not how professionals leave jobs where they are not wanted or found wanting. They leave with a smile, a direct gaze, a firm handshake, and a solid work day,  having tied up loose ends, prepared their successor and thanked everyone, sincerely, for the opportunity to work with them…including those in authority who greased their skids, or delivered the bad news. It is called finishing the job responsibly and with dignity, and emotions have nothing to do with it. Ann Curry couldn’t do that, because she’s not really a professional at all.

Good call, Matt.

_______________________________________

Facts: Washington Post

Graphic: Scallywag and Vagabond

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

15 thoughts on “The Ethics Of Getting Fired: Ann Curry’s Today Show Exit

  1. Poor form for sure.
    HOWEVER….it seems like NBC must have something in their DNA necessitating these drawn out and ugly exits. That Conan O’Brien fellow comes to mind.

      • Conan? Class and grace? To quote the dour Joe Queenan in the Wall Street Journal:

        “First it was “Tonight Show” host Conan O’Brien, who whined and whined about getting purged from a job he was unqualified to fill in the first place. People were outraged. People were exercised. People thought he got a raw deal. In fact, he got a payout of at least $30 million for taking a hike. And then he landed another show on TBS that also paid him millions. A show, like his stint at “Tonight,” that has mostly had crummy ratings. If he loses that one, we’ll never hear the end of it.”

        Cheers!

        • Conan didn’t whine, not on the air. Not in any setting I’ve seen. He was, in fact, screwed. He handled his exit with class and grace. I have the video.

          I don’t know what you could be referring to. Who the hell is Joe Queenan? “Unqualified to fill in the first place” is a meaningless, post hoc cheap shot. Jack Paar could play the piano–he was unqualified to be Steve Allen. Johnny Carson was a lousy interviewer—he was unqualified to be Jack Paar. Jay Leno is not a skit comic—he was unqualified to be Johnny. Conan is unqualified to be Jay—each host, given a fair shot, developed his own style, strengths and following. Conan’s the most creative and spontaneous since Allen, as smart as Allen and Paar. He’s qualified to do his Tonight Show, and was cheated out of the chance to do it. Would Paar have succeeded if they had just moved Steve to the previous slot? Never.

  2. Have I said too much?
    There’s nothing more I can think of to say to you
    But all you have to do is look at me
    To know that every word is true!

    Just listen to that! The voice of America!
    I am adored! I am loved!
    Journalism is more than being professional!
    We shall see little man!

    ~Ann Curry is no Evita…

    • Well thank you for that economical diagnosis! It would be helpful to know what brought you to that conclusion, as well as who you are including in “all.” Is your assessment based on the fact that employees getting millions of dollars to leave their job without stinking up the studio SHOULD go out of their way to appear pathetic? Are you questioning whether on-air personalities should be held to professional standards? Is your critique based on a belief that nobody should criticize the conduct of others, even when it is televised and influences the experiences of others? Or, mayhap, are you just making a random observation about the state of mankind?

      My best guess is that you are incapable of reasoned and civil discourse with those you disagree with, and that the best you can muster is a wan insult, and perhaps a grunt or two. But I could be wrong.

  3. Frankly, I couldn’t give a good goddamn about Ann Curry, Matt Lower, or any of them. All of these “providers” of the news are shills for other people, not very bright, and have their spots on TV more because of their personas and/or looks than any information, evaluation, analysis they may have to offer. They are interchangeable; puppets who read the teleprompters and far too often reflect not only their own opinions but those of their superiors as well.

    The best thing that has happened to the news is the Internet: where “managed news” is less common, and where people actually have to make a decision whether a comment or analysis is correct or not. Perhaps the majority don’t do so, but at least the option is there. Without it, we may as well be in some totalitarian state, because the “big lie’ is alive and well on all the networks, cable and otherwise.

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