Today Show

It matters how Rolling Stone reported its UVA rape story

Good morning. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. Rolling Stone story causes the wrong kind of unease

    Sabrina Rubin Erdely's story finally got UVA's administration to deal with campus sexual assault. But if it "turns out to be a hoax, it is going to turn the clock back on their thinking 30 years,” Caitlin Flanagan tells Allison Benedikt and Hanna Rosin. They found Jackie, the main character of Erdely's story, who "had already been interviewed by the Washington Post for a story that has not yet run." (Slate) | If the men Jackie accuses of rape "were being cited in the story for mere drunkenness, boorish frat-boy behavior or similar collegiate misdemeanors, then there’d be no harm in failing to secure their input," Erik Wemple writes. "The charge in this piece, however, is gang rape, and so requires every possible step to reach out and interview them, including e-mails, phone calls, certified letters, FedEx letters, UPS letters and, if all of that fails, a knock on the door. No effort short of all that qualifies as journalism." (WP) | “If a reporter were doing a story about a university accused of failing to address the mugging or robbery of a student, that reporter would not be expected to interview the alleged mugger or robber,” Columbia j-school professor Helen Benedict tells Ravi Somaiya. (NYT) | Which is true. But it's also true that most editors would want to see a police report, or would insist on attributing an account of such a mugging to the person who claimed it, not report it as established fact. A counter-narrative is already forming because of Rolling Stone's decision not to report out its source's explosive story: Just look at this Jonah Goldberg piece: "Erdely’s story was reported uncritically for days as a powerful example of the 'rape epidemic' that is somehow taking place amidst a 20-year decline in reported rapes." (NRO) | There will be an epidemic of such scare quotes if Rolling Stone's story doesn't check out.

  2. The story of that Ferguson protester-hugging-a-cop photo

    Devonte Hart was carrying a sign that said "free hugs." A Portland, Oregon, police officer asked for one. Does that make the picture a lie? His mom says "It was one of the most emotionally charged experiences I’ve had as a mother.” (WP)

  3. Shakeup at Gawker Media

    Editorial director Joel Johnson told staffers yesterday they'd receive an email from Gawker honcho Nick Denton "stating that he had been fired," Peter Sterne reports. Denton still envisions a product role for Johnson at the company and will create an executive editor and a group managing editor position. "We hear that Deadspin editor Tommy Craggs is the leading internal candidate" for exec editor. (Capital) | Denton's memo: "Hard to imagine, but 2015 is going to be even more intense than this year." (Jim Romenesko)

  4. More NYT buyout departures

    Labor reporter Steve Greenhouse takes the buyout, emails staffers: "I realize that I need to slow down, at least somewhat. I work too damn hard -- that’s my fault, not the NYT’s." His note ends: "Stay in touch. And keep on keeping on with your wonderful journalism – and holding all those damn folks accountable." | Some of the other names that emerged yesterday: Ethan Bronner. Douglas Martin. Nadia Taha (she's going to PETA). Tim Hilchey. Christine Haughney. Marjorie Connelly. (Poynter) | The Guild says management accepted 57 members' buyout applications (out of 63) and that layoffs "could begin as early as Dec. 15." (Capital)

  5. Center for Public Integrity has a new boss

    Former CNN exec Peter Bale is its new CEO. He succeeds William E. Buzenberg, who plans to move to Boston and "begin a fellowship at the Shorenstein Center." (CPI)

  6. GE tried to hire Ezra Klein

    "While Mr. Klein was still at the Post, GE courted him and others for a news website and marketing campaign in development. When Mr. Klein left to join Vox, GE and its ad dollars followed." (WSJ) | Related: Verizon quietly shut down SugarString, its tech publication that was forbidden to write about government surveillance or net neutrality. (DSLReports)

  7. Dr. Nancy Snyderman returns to 'Today'

    "The appearance will bring to an end what had been an extended absence by Dr. Snyderman, who returned from covering the Ebola outbreak in Liberia and drew a chorus of criticism for breaking a self-imposed quarantine." (NYT)

  8. A Martha Stewart Café is on its way

    The cafe, in the same New York building as my former employer Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, is already hiring baristas. Let a thousand "It's a good thing" subheds bloom. (Bloomberg Businessweek)

  9. Front page of the day, curated by Kristen Hare

    Ferguson kids returning to school share their stories on the front page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. (Courtesy the Newseum)
    slpd-12032014 

  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin

    Andy Wiedlin will be an entreprenuer-in-residence at Andreessen Horowitz. He's currently chief revenue officer at BuzzFeed. (Re/Code) | Salvador Rodríguez is a Silicon Valley correspondent for International Business Times. Previously, he was a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times. (Media Moves) | Peter Bale will be CEO at the Center for Public Integrity. Previously, he was vice president and general manager of digital operations at CNN International. (Center for Public Integrity) | Jed Hartman will be chief revenue officer at The Washington Post. Previously, he was group publisher for Time, time.com, Fortune, fortune.com, Money, and money.com. (Washington Post) | Job of the day: The San Antonio Express-News is looking for an online producer. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org.

Corrections? Tips? Please email me: abeaujon@poynter.org. Would you like to get this roundup emailed to you every morning? Sign up here.

Correction: Due to my own editing error, this sentence was originally missing a crucial "if": It should read (without the italics) "But if it "turns out to be a hoax, it is going to turn the clock back on their thinking 30 years,” Caitlin Flanagan tells Allison Benedikt and Hanna Rosin." Read more

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Lauer in March. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

In defense of Matt Lauer: ‘Today’ will be hurt if he leaves

For me, reports of a phone call to CNN anchor Anderson Cooper about taking Matt Lauer’s place on NBC’s “Today” show were the last, silly straw.

Lauer in March. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Much as I respect Cooper (and his ability to vault from trading quips with Kathy Griffin on New Year’s Eve to covering natural disasters overseas), the notion that he might replace Lauer seemed to defy logic.

Cooper’s syndicated daytime show was canceled due to disappointing ratings and his well-regarded prime time CNN show “Anderson Cooper 360″ still struggles against Fox News Channel star Bill O’Reilly and whoever may be hosting MSNBC’s 8 p.m. hour (Chris Hayes, as of Monday).

Troubled as Lauer may be, he is still the biggest star on a program that’s earned about six times the viewers Cooper generated at 8 p.m. on CNN in February sweeps. So why would Cooper be a logical successor? Read more

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Matt Lauer

‘Today Show’ narrative grows more complicated with New York Magazine piece

If this is one of the first steps in rehabbing “Today Show” star Matt Lauer’s image, he’s in for a long, tough road ahead.

That’s the thought I had after reading New York magazine’s detailed look at the Today show, featuring an exhaustive account of the machinations behind the awkward, embarrassing replacement of former co-anchor Ann Curry last year and a tough assessment of how it may have affected Lauer’s future fortunes.

Featuring a group interview with the program’s four top anchors and lots of information gathered from unnamed sources, reporter Joe Hagan paints an account filled with telling details, sharp observations and money quotes.

“They were incredibly lucky to have stabbed in the back somebody who wasn’t in the least vindictive and had the interest of the Today show at heart,” said Pulitzer-winning New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, described as a close friend of Curry’s, in the story. “Everybody at NBC, everybody at the Today show, everybody understood that Ann was kicked out of her position because Matt didn’t want her there,” said an unnamed “prominent NBC staffer.” Read more

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‘Today’ show’s executive producer takes responsibility for Ann Curry’s departure

The New York TimesThe Hollywood ReporterRadar Online The New York PostThe New York Daily News
It’s been three months since Ann Curry was forced to leave NBC’s “Today” show, but the network is still dealing with the fallout.

The show’s executive producer, Jim Bell, appears to be on a mission to repair damage done to the show and its current host, Matt Lauer, after Curry’s messy departure. In recent days, Bell has granted interviews with The New York Times and The Hollywood Reporter, and Curry has been the main topic of conversation.

In the interviews, Bell continues to defend the decision to replace Curry with Savannah Guthrie, and he repeatedly denies rumors that Lauer had made firing Curry a condition of his contract renewal.

“It was definitely not Matt’s call,” Bell told the Times’ Bill Carter. “He is the host and does not have management responsibility. It was not his call. That was my call.”

The interviews may be in response to reports that the “Today” show has constituently lost viewers since Curry’s departure. Radar Online also reported over the weekend that Lauer’s popularity has taken a hit, and The New York Daily News reported Monday that Lauer may soon have to take a pay cut to his $25 million salary due to the ratings drop. Read more

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NBC, MSNBC 9/11 anniversary broadcasts stir emotions and controversy

Today is, of course, the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It was the biggest news event of a generation, but particularly iconic for television news.

MSNBC re-airs the original Today Show coverage of 9/11.
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Matt Lauer, Ann Curry

How race factors into the conversation about Ann Curry’s possible ouster from ‘Today’ Show

This week’s news of Ann Curry’s problems as co-host of NBC’s “Today” show makes my mind reel and my heart ache.

It makes my heart ache because, as the son of Asian immigrants, I’ve felt an instinctive pride as I’ve watched Curry’s slow and steady climb up to one of network news’ most high-profile jobs.

Finally, on morning TV, I could find someone who looked like me. I identified with her. I was inspired by her.

Now she is faltering and may even be forced out because of a decline in ratings.

No doubt, many factors lie behind the “Today” show’s drop in viewers. It now runs neck-and-neck with ABC’s “Good Morning America.” But some executives fault Curry, because the collapse has occurred in the year since she became co-host after replacing Meredith Vieira.

The news makes my mind reel, because Curry’s lack of rapport with Matt Lauer and the “Today” show family — real or perceived — and her possible ouster may have something to do with her race, cultural background and upbringing. (She is biracial with Japanese roots.)

Or these things may have absolutely nothing to do with her race, cultural background and upbringing.

She may just not be good at projecting the ease and warmth of Vieira or Katie Couric, the co-hosts who preceded her.

Simple as that.

And yet: In Curry’s saga, there’s enough of the whiff of race and culture to prompt Mike Hale, New York Times TV and film critic, to mention it in his in-depth feature story about her struggles.

I have long admired the intelligence and balance that Hale brings to his work. So I trust that Hale, who has Asian roots himself, raises the cultural issue only upon great reflection. (I contacted Hale but didn’t hear back. He and I are friendly acquaintances, as we are both members of the Asian American Journalists Association, whose governing board I serve on. My views here do not necessarily represent AAJA’s.)

Hale observed Curry for a month, and I’m drawn to his insights: “But as you watch the show,” he writes, “there’s an inescapable sense that Ms. Curry is outside the group in a subtle but unmistakable way, like the stepsister Cinderella without a prince…”

“I don’t know what personal factors might come into play in creating an on-screen distance,” Hale writes. “You could speculate about certain things. Ms. Curry is biracial (Japanese-American) and spent part of her early childhood living overseas, a situation that has been known to generate self-reliance and reserve. (Barack Obama probably wouldn’t make the warmest of morning hosts.)”

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think Hale or anyone else is arguing that Curry is being overtly discriminated against because of her race.

In fact, Curry’s Asian background, along with her strong reporting chops, hard work and credibility, has probably been a plus for her career, as “Today” and other shows recruited a diverse group of journalists to reflect the communities they cover and the audiences they seek.

What I am suggesting is that Curry’s Otherness, real or perceived, might have worked against her as she tried to fit in with — and take a more prominent role in — the chummy morning-show environment.

What do I mean by Otherness?

Think about the things in your background that set you apart from the others who surround you every day — not just your race or religion or age or sexual orientation or political convictions. Maybe you grew up with an easy-going Texas swagger and are having trouble fitting into an abrasive Boston workplace. (Hey, I can say that because I’m from the beloved Beantown.)

Maybe you were raised by an Asian father or Asian mother (or, God forbid, both) and were taught certain cultural norms — to be reserved, to not share private family matters, to not interrupt others, to not be showy about your feelings.

Or maybe you weren’t taught any of these things.

They are simply part of your personality and have nothing to do with your family and their traditions.

But there is this observation from Mike Hale: “There are moments in every show when you feel as if you’re registering Ms. Curry’s true feelings, and in the constructed world of the morning show that honesty can work for you or against you. It’s one thing when we know that you’re moved by the story of a sick child. It’s another when we know that you’re bored by and a little contemptuous of a visiting chef.”

Maybe, as in Ann Curry’s case, you’re just too honest for your own good. Read more

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Ann Curry, left, and Meredith Vieira appear during a segment of the NBC "Today" television program, in New York's Rockefeller Center, Friday, May 27, 2011. (Richard Drew/AP)

Today’s Vieira-Curry handoff reminds newsroom leaders: Bench strength matters

Here’s a safe prediction: the departure of Meredith Vieira from the Today Show won’t put a dent in the program’s robust ratings. Ann Curry will slide into the co-anchor chair in a seamless transition and viewers will stay loyal to the team.

“Team” is the operative word. NBC management has positioned the program as an ensemble company, not dependent on the drawing power of only one or two individuals. In another key move, the network, which bypassed Curry when hiring Vieira five years ago, worked with Curry to give her high-profile assignments that mattered to her and to viewers.

As David Bauder of the AP reported:

How Curry responded when Vieira was brought in over Curry in 2006 to replace Katie Couric likely played a large part in her getting the job this time.

She didn’t leave. She didn’t sulk or back-stab. Curry, 54, instead created a niche for herself with international reporting, often on tough, unpleasant stories that aren’t mainstays at American television networks. She’s been to the troubled region of Darfur in Sudan to report on the humanitarian crisis five times since 2006.

Carving a niche instead of burning bridges paid off for Curry. It built both her credibility and her visibility on the program. As any broadcast news executive will tell you, when disappointment and ego collide, things don’t always work out that smoothly.

Ann Curry, left, and Meredith Vieira appear during a segment of the NBC “Today” television program, in New York’s Rockefeller Center, Friday, May 27, 2011. (Richard Drew/AP)

So what’s the management lesson here? I think it’s the importance of bench strength. Not only did NBC reward Curry for “taking one for the team” in 2006 by investing in her growth, it also groomed others. Natalie Morales was given abundant opportunities to fill in for Curry on the program’s news desk. Making it her permanent assignment simply installs a familiar face into a familiar place, a comfort viewers really value.

Let the record also show that the program’s diversity — in gender and ethnicity — has also been enhanced by the transitions. Call it succession planning, call it business continuity, or call it building a bench. When it rolls out this smoothly it might look like serendipity. Smart managers know that it’s strategy.

Do you have a strategy for your future promotions? That’s the focus of my podcast, “What Great Bosses Know about Building a Strong Bench”:

You can download the complete series of “What Great Bosses Know” podcasts free on iTunes U. Read more

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