When KNBC-TV in Los Angeles opted to fire a respected Latina anchor last year and replace her with a white woman, I suggested that what NBC stood for was "Nothing But Caucasians."
But in light of the network's disgraceful and humiliating treatment of veteran journalist Ann Curry, who it yanked out of the co-host chair at the "Today" show, it's clear that NBC is really short for "No Bloody Class."
This is not how you treat people — even in the often shallow and callous world of broadcast journalism. There have to be some standards of fairness and decency. And, if so, NBC executives didn't adhere to them.
Curry gave the network more than 20 years of solid national/international reporting and anchoring — 15 of them at the "Today" show. She also gave her bosses and colleagues something you don't find a lot of in that industry: loyalty. After she was passed over for the co-host slot in 2006, she kept quiet and dutifully kept doing her job as the show's news anchor.
In return, NBC executives gave Curry the bum's rush after only a year in the co-anchor chair. Worse, they made the veteran journalist the scapegoat for a decline in ratings and the fact that it now trails ABC's "Good Morning America" for the first time since 1995. Once word leaked that Curry was on her way out, the bosses let her twist in the wind for another week as media writers tagged her "Dead Ann Walking."
And now that she has been bounced from the show, NBC News President Steve Capus has tried to spin Curry's ouster as being all about Ann. He said her fatal flaw was that she was weak when it came to interviewing celebrities and doing cooking segments.
"We gave her a year to prove herself, and ultimately we came to the conclusion that she had played at the highest level she could," Capus told the Hollywood Reporter. "When you're in the major leagues of our profession, you've got to continue to be at peak performance in order to stay there."
This certainly sounds better than the story being reported by entertainment news show TMZ alleging that co-host Matt Lauer insisted that he get a new partner as part of his renewed contract with NBC. If this is true, then the network was just looking for an opportunity to push Curry out of the door and replace her with someone who was more to Lauer's liking.
That someone is Savannah Guthrie, who is now the show's new co-host.
And what about the peacock in the room? Curry isn't just a top-notch broadcaster who paid her dues to get where she was. She has also been a trailblazer for journalists of color.
Mike Hale, New York Times TV and film critic, mentioned the diversity angle. Hale, a member of the Asian American Journalists Association, wrote: "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." Hale speculated that one reason for this is because she 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."
Curry alluded to her background during her tearful goodbye to viewers.