June 29, 2012

Mediabistro | The New York Times | Poynter
Alessandra Stanley’s story about Ann Curry’s farewell from the “Today” show included this poignant account:

Highlight reels are the gold watch of television news, and “Today” showed a long, affectionate one of Ms. Curry, from her first days in local news to her trip to the South Pole, where she planted the NBC flag. It included goofy moments clowning on the set, and also a tableau that seemed — under the circumstances — somewhat insensitive. Ms. Curry, ebullient as ever, leaned in to Mr. Lauer, who was wearing an arm sling. “Don’t come anywhere near me with a hug,” he said, jokingly, but perhaps not entirely so.

Trouble is: This didn’t happen on Thursday’s “Today” show. Poynter Online Director Julie Moos, who watched the show, didn’t see a highlight reel or this exchange between Curry and Matt Lauer. Mediabistro’s Chris Ariens writes that the highlight reel “never aired, not on the East Coast or in any other version of the show … A ‘Today’ spokesperson tells us there was no highlight reel, not even on standby.”

Stanley said by email, “I watched the show on TV, but didn’t tape it so I rewatched it online; the highlights reel was online, but was not shown by ‘Today.’ “

In fact, the video that Stanley watched (embedded below) was a highlight reel from when Curry was announced as co-anchor a year ago. If Stanley thought the highlight reel was insensitive, perhaps that’s because the mood when it aired was celebratory: “It’s kind of a special morning for us as the ‘Today’ family, as we welcome Ann to the new role of co-anchor,” Lauer says in introducing the video.

The Times has posted a correction to the story; Stanley said the correction would be amended to reflect that it was an old video. The correction now reads:

The highlight video was available on the show’s Web site; it was not shown on the television show Thursday and should not have been included as part of the critique of Thursday’s show. The highlight reel was created last year, when Ms. Curry started in her role as host, not in connection with her departure.

The story already had been corrected for two other errors. One was a misidentification in a photo caption. The other: “An earlier version of this article erroneously stated that Savannah Guthrie was included in Thursday’s episode of ‘Today.’ “

As for the attempted hug that Stanley described, that too didn’t occur Thursday; it was part of the highlight reel that aired last year.

Stanley has a history of accuracy issues. Her 2009 “appraisal” of Walter Cronkite’s career had seven errors, resulting in a lengthy correction. Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt wrote that the errors occurred because “a television critic with a history of errors wrote hastily and failed to double-check her work, and editors who should have been vigilant were not.” || Earlier: Stanley’s erroneous history (CJR) || Related: NBC announced today that Savannah Guthrie would be Curry’s successor

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