NY Mag feature on epic NBC "Today" Lauer/Curry cold war is backstab-o-licious

Joe Hagan's New York Magazine feature on the bitter internal conflict behind the smiles of NBC's long-running Today show is a wonderful read, whether or not you give a shit about Today, or network daytime television in general.

I don't want to spoil it for you, but that 9th graf down from the top is the ultimate "oh snap!" of media gossip writing.

The piece is full of interesting dirt about Ann Curry, Matt Lauer, and the suits that run NBC, including this little nugget about the network's cockblocking of a compassionate gesture for a woman with cancer at a rival network:

"When Robin Roberts left Good Morning America a month later to get treatment for MDS, Curry asked NBC if she could tweet a note of sympathy for the ABC co-host. NBC said no, afraid she was trying to aid the enemy."

(Photo: Gillian Laub/NY Magazine)


  1. I’m distressed by the whole notion that you have to ask your employer for permission to tweet a note of sympathy to a colleague. When “business concerns” override basic human communication, your society has become dysfunctional.

  2. NBC has some major issues with chain of command and decision making. Look at the Leno situation over the past years as a perfect example of wishy washy incompetence.

    1. It’s a problem in the industry and you can see it in this article: people are often promoted from what is essentially the shop floor to the execuitve suite who are in no way prepared for the management role or responsibilities. Sometimes it’s a wunderkind situation, sometimes it’s a lurking time-server, but when they get on that track it’s always more about connections and politics and licking the right boots than it is about managerial competence and understanding the big-picture issues of TV production.

      Not that knowledge of those issues isn’t valuable — the article mentions how Comcast replaced Jeff Zucker (almost a case study of the previous paragraph) who had TV production experience with someone who had none at all.

      You see similar institutional management problems in similar creative industries where the money is so big that they can get away with the inefficiencies of incompetent management: movies, publishing, modeling and (most notoriously) music.

  3. This stuff is actually good to know, especially when the BB comment zone seems cynical and snarky. Something about the limelight seems to bring out the worst in people.

  4. You know, I’m not surprised Matt Lauer is a dick. What surprises me is the money these collective “talents” make for doing absolutely nothing but pandering to the lowest common denominator. The fact that Lauer makes 25 mil for having a soft voice during interviews is truly astounding.

    Yes, I’m just hating, but still. That’s fucking ridiculous. 

    1. According the article, “Today was worth nearly half a billion dollars a year in advertising revenue to NBC.” For me the surprise isn’t that they would give him a 5% cut of that action, it’s that in 2013 so many people are still tuning in to these morning shows. I guess a lot of them are Boomers, but still…

      I’ll agree that the salary numbers are excessive, but I will cop to the fact that they’re called “the talent” for legitimate reasons. Journalism experience aside, they’re basically highly competent, almost natural actors playing stock roles. Actors like that who can connect with a big audience get the big bucks.

      1. But they’re the equivalent of cheezestrings for lunch – highly competent within their niche.  Slowly the population sunk to a muddy pool of incoherent and useless morning murmurings issued by plastic people with chiclet teeth.

        In my world, they’re not worth that 5% in the slightest.

        I’m sad they have troubles, I really am.  But they get millions to carry that awful burden.

        1. I’m not talking about your world or my world, I’m talking about their world.

          In their world, those  $25-million salaries are worth it to the network considering the revenues they deliver by being competent in their niche. In their world, the talent makes so much money that they can afford to fret over affronts to their egos. Saddest of all, in their world 10s of millions of citizens aren’t isn’t outraged over these $25-million salaries precisely because of those useless morning murmerings.

          Their world sucks, I’ll agree. But we have to live in their world more than they have to live in ours.

        2. One ‘like’ for ‘plastic people with chiclet teeth’.  Had to clean the spit take off my keyboard.

          1. I can’t believe that there’s no chicletteeth tumblr, but then there’s no badplasticsurgery.tumblr either. Bad internet!

  5. My mouth waters at the thought of this sort of inside baseball coming out about ‘Fox & Friends’.. wait for it.. wait for it..

    1. I was going to comment that there’s no way I’d read an article about these rich, smiling corporate shills, but you’ve made me realize, that’s a fantasy article about some other corporate shills that makes my mouth water too.

  6. Maybe they are just reflecting what they helped society to become?
    Everything is zero sum.
    Anyone on the ‘other side’ is evil.
    You must hold your beliefs no matter what.

  7. The slideshow on page 3 contains a wonderful summary: the last two images are the same, with Curry replaced by the new host using Photoshop instead of the new four actually standing in the same room for a new photo.

  8. I think that despite the numbers, the show lost it’s chemistry after Bryant Gumbel left.  I never accepted Matt as an equal replacement. 

    I thought of Katie as too much of a lightweight to anchor the news.  That spot would have been better filled by Ann Curry. 

    Ann Curry as co-host was doomed from the start.  Every time she did an interview, my gag reflex kicked in.  The show had become so soft and vapid, but Ann’s interviewing was the last straw.  GMA was worse, so our t.v. stayed off in the mornings (back when we actually watched television).

  9. It seemed like there was a grain of truth to the Today Show scenes in Land of the Lost. (Dumb movie, I know.)

    “Matt Lauer Can Suck It”.

  10. Man, am I glad I left that business. 20 years later it’s the same if not worse: petty chickensh*t politics, empty fluff and sensationalistic freak shows, cults of personality built around phonies, and managerial incompetence — both on-air and off. The only comfort is knowing how empty and irrelevant TV news (especially the morning shows) is to serious people and how, despite still mind-bogglingly high viewership, more and more people are discovering that and tuning out.

  11. First off, my favorite part –
    “Fifteen minutes later, Lauer is asking Stewart whether over­mixing the hamburger and the bread crumbs might make the meat loaf too dense. This isn’t his first meat-loaf session.”

    Second, the real issue is the dickweed corporate pinheads running the place.  Ask Letterman..

  12. “Steve Burke, a Comcast executive with no experience in TV production, replaced Zucker, and for NBC’s people, managing up became as important as managing down.” Replace Comcast for GE and this is effectively the Pilot for 30 Rock, I thought that was a comedy, not a documentary!

  13. Not being in America or having a TV I have absolutely no idea who all these characters are. But it was a fascinating read and should be turned into a movie as soon as possible.

  14. Curry asked NBC if she could tweet a note of sympathy for the ABC co-host. NBC said no, afraid she was trying to aid the enemy.

    Sociopathic corporatists breeding sociopathic lackeys, how quaint.

  15. My friend and I were walking along the sidewalk in NY one afternoon and we saw a crowd of people standing by a nondescript door like they were waiting for something so we joined them to see what was going on.  A few minutes later the door opened with some security guards and Al Roker stepped out into the crowd and led them towards the front of a waiting sedan, exchanging greetings and signing a few autographs.  I then realized that we were behind NBC studios and although I enjoy Al I didn’t have any desire to join the throng chasing him to the car so I just kept my place and observed the goings on. From my vantage point I was able to see that when Al got to the front of the sedan Matt then snuck out the door and quickly rounded the car to the opposite side to get in the back seat.  Matt had made Al his bitch!  Realizing what Matt had done to poor Al I outing him before he got to the door by yelling, “Hey Matt, how about an autograph!”  Matt gave me a dirty look, and barely muttered a “I would stay but I have a thing,” as he ducked into the car.  What a DIck!

  16. Few things here.
    1. NBC is dead to me. After what they did to Conan, I’m done with them. What Conan did was amazing. He took it like a man, told them to shove it, toured the country and found another job. This is how you do things in life.
    2. Matt and guys like him are sooo annoying. They add no value to programming whatsoever. They could hire younger, more cheerful and charismatic guy for 50 times less money. The talent is out there, Matt can’t possibly be one in a million. Just have an audition and these overpaid and spoiled people are gone.
    3. Ann got 12 million and she’s upset? Hmmm, how about people having no food on the table for their kids today? Maybe those are important issues, but hey, Ann is hurt, lets show some support and understanding.

  17. I don’t watch the Today show, but I enjoyed that article.  I read that full story, and I didn’t come away thinking there were heroes or villains.   Some obvious mismanagement and typical big business sleaze but no real villain.   Am I the only one who thinks getting $12 million and a new job at the same network isn’t such a bad deal?  They gave her a year, and it didn’t work.  It could have been handled much, much better, but I think she got a pretty fair shot.  If the audience had really connected with her, Lauer not liking her wouldn’t have been enough to get rid of her, but that wasn’t the case.

    Lauer was the established talent, and management viewed him as the most important part of the show, which is probably true.  For as long as there has been entertainment, clashing with the star has gotten you kicked off the show. That’s especially true of someone who clashes with the star, can’t read a teleprompter and whose arrival coincided with a steady decline in ratings.

    Sure, Lauer and others come across as dickish, but I think dickish behavior is probably pretty common in scenarios where $500 million franchises are at risk.

  18. Lauer might be a dick, but the TODAY show has done this before, before Lauer was even there. The situation with Curry being replaced by the younger Savannah Guthrie sounds eerily similar to what the show did to Jane Pauley in the late 80s.

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