Deborah Norville on Ann Curry: 'She Appeared Truly Wounded'
Writing for THR, the former "Today" co-host who was forced out during her maternity leave 21 years ago asks, "Will the [audience] see the treatment of Ann as ... just plain mean -- and vote with their remote control?"
Deborah Norville succeeded Jane Pauley as co-host of Today in 1990. While on maternity leave just over a year later, she was replaced with Katie Couric. Norville, who now anchors Inside Edition, shares her thoughts about Ann Curry's departure from Today, announced Thursday morning, in a column penned exclusively for The Hollywood Reporter.
Like many who were watching, it made me sad to see Ann Curry say goodbye today. 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.
As a woman, I felt badly for Ann, who seemed so sad at how the "dream job" ended up such a disappointment. She appeared truly wounded and genuinely hurt as she stared dolefully at her lap as her soon-to-be-former colleagues mentioned their "favorite Ann moments."
Yet in her palpable disappointment, Ann subtly reminded what it REALLY is that has made the Today show the pre-eminent morning broadcast for generations. She directed her comments to "you, the viewers." It is the audience -- its size and its loyal support -- that gives the show its power to book the sought-after guests, to charge attractive rates for its commercial time and yes, to captivate the scribes who cover the entertainment business. How will the AUDIENCE perceive the network's handling of Ann Curry's short tenure and sudden departure?
In researching my most recent book, The Power of Respect, I sifted through a sea of data on workplace justice and perceptions of fair treatment. The research, generated from some of the top universities in the country, shows quite clearly that fairness matters to people. When one believes the bosses have treated workers justly, even if the outcome is negative, there are no hard feelings. But when the perception is the employer was unjust, unkind or just plain mean, workers who've been terminated are twice as likely to sue, according to data gathered by Duke University professor Allan Lind. Obviously, Ann Curry isn't going to sue; she's being given her own unit at NBC to pursue the meaningful reporting about which she is so passionate. But will those viewers she mentioned take action? Will they see the treatment of Ann as unjust, unkind or just plain mean -- and vote with their remote control?
Like Ann Curry, I too had a too-brief run on the Today show. Seeing her under attack brought back uncomfortable, hurtful memories. Unlike Ann, I was given neither an opportunity to say farewell nor a different position at the network. I was pushed out while on maternity leave, having just given birth to my first child. It was personally devastating to, in less than two years, go from "NBC's fastest-rising star" to a pariah in television. It was awful. But, just as an earthquake forces you to check the foundation of your home, having my career shatter forced me to re-evaluate everything. The depression I battled pushed me to investigate the power of the mind and led to my writing a number of books grounded in positive psychology, as I rebuilt my career first at ABC Radio, then CBS News and Inside Edition. I survived, even thrived, and so will Ann.
Bottom line: No one ever promised life would be fair. And frankly, the personnel issues at Today should be viewed with a little perspective.
Unemployment is over 8.2 percent. Jobless workers are seeing their unemployment benefits run out. Millions of people are homeless or at risk of becoming so. Ann Curry will make an incredible seven-figure salary whether she anchors the Today show or reports on world issues. Her children will be educated, her bills will be paid. She can be sure of it.
And since she does have financial security, and a tremendous platform, my suggestion is she use her energy and empathy and passion to report on solutions to make a difference for those who don't. That'll really show 'em -- and she won't have to get up at 4 in the morning to do it!