Curry is respected as a reporter at NBC News, and is staying at the network to continue in a reporting role. Yet when Katie Couric left "Today" to go to CBS, Curry was passed over for the top job for Meredith Vieira.
Vieira had unassailable credentials as a former "60 Minutes" reporter at CBS News and the dominant personality on the talk show "The View." There was no one in the wings with such strength when Vieira left, and there was a general sense at NBC that Curry deserved the chance to be co-host and viewers would resent it if she didn't get one.
Yet she never seemed to achieve a solid comfort level. One former morning show producer said the chemistry involved in such programs is like seeing people who dance well together — they anticipate moves, know preferences and instinctively follow each other's cues. That was a strength for "Today" for many years, and it didn't seem to work with Curry in her new role.
She was luckless, too, as when she was hit in the head by a camera on Tuesday's show.
She's a smart, earnest woman who appears offscreen exactly as she is on the air. She'll give an intense stare and expression of concern, maybe touch an arm for emphasis. She cares deeply. "You have the biggest heart in the business," Lauer said on Thursday. "You put it on display every single day in this studio."
Somehow, though, it came off on television as more odd than heartwarming.
When word spread that NBC was negotiating Curry's departure, the network privately wanted to emphasize that Lauer was in no way behind it. There's no evidence that he was. Yet he's an extremely powerful man at NBC News, and if he fought hard to keep Curry, that's not evident either.
With her new reporting role, Curry won't be disappearing from the air. She'll even be back on "Today" with reports occasionally, and Lauer said she will accompany the "Today" team to London for its Olympics coverage, considered an important showcase for "Today" to renew its lapsed relationship with some longtime viewers.
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