April 18, 2013

A NYT exposé of the "boys' club" at the "Today" show — replete with "Operation Bambi" and what it really means when they say there's a lack of "chemistry."

A great NYT Magazine article, by Brian Stelter (who has an entire book coming out: "Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV"). Stelter explains why the morning shows are so important to the networks, and why being #1 matters so much. I just want to excerpt some of the imputations of sexism:

Many executives at the network never grasped how profoundly hurt and humiliated [Ann] Curry remained — not just by her televised dismissal but by all the backstage machinations that led to that fateful morning. Curry felt that the boys’ club atmosphere behind the scenes at “Today” undermined her from the start, and she told friends that her final months were a form of professional torture. The growing indifference of Matt Lauer, her co-host, had hurt the most, but there was also just a general meanness on set. At one point, the executive producer, Jim Bell, commissioned a blooper reel of Curry’s worst on-air mistakes. Another time, according to a producer, Bell called staff members into his office to show a gaffe she made during a cross-talk with a local station. (Bell denies both incidents.)...
Meanness.  Women are very sensitive to meanness. It's a show for "created largely for women." But it's "managed mostly by men." As "Today" got into ratings trouble and some were blaming Lauer, "Bell had another culprit in mind: Ann Curry."
So insistent was Bell that Curry was the problem — that she was “out of position,” as he put it in an e-mail to his deputies — that he had been talking about it with friends for months. One morning-TV veteran suggested to him that firing Curry, who had been co-hosting for only about six months at that point, would be tantamount to “killing Bambi.” Undeterred, Bell hatched a careful three-part plan: 1.) persuade Lauer to extend his expiring contract; 2.) oust Curry; 3.) replace her with Savannah Guthrie. According to this source, Bell called his plan Operation Bambi.

Bell, a 6-foot-4 former Harvard lineman, was well liked by his staff. He was considered a straight shooter who would do anything for the sake of the show. (Bell denies using the term “Operation Bambi.”) The coinage, however, was indicative of a few larger truths about morning television. Though it is created largely for women, the business is, even now, managed mostly by men, including those who like to think in terms of war, sabotage and embarrassing James Bond-like names for things they do in the office. 
(If you're watching these season "Survivor," you, like me, may think: Phillip!)
Curry was sad after signing off, but also enraged. When critics blamed a lack of chemistry for her departure, she dismissed it to friends it as a euphemism for something else. “ ‘Chemistry,’ in television history, generally means the man does not want to work with the woman,” Curry was known to have remarked. “It’s an excuse generally used by men in positions of power to say, ‘The woman doesn’t work.’ ”

50 comments:

Nonapod said...

I'll never understand the appeal of morning shows. I find them so cringe inducing to watch. Fox and Friends is an embarrassment and the network shows are revolting.

William said...

Why did Gumbel leave?

EDH said...

Meanness. Women are very sensitive to meanness. It's a show for "created largely for women." But it's "managed mostly by men." As "Today" got into ratings trouble and some were blaming Lauer, "Bell had another culprit in mind: Ann Curry."

Women are never "mean".

chickelit said...

'Chemistry,’ in television history, generally means the man does not want to work with the woman,..

Men by and large are base; women are more acerbic and tart.

EMD said...

NYT, mirror.

Mirror, NYT.

dreams said...

I can't get worked up about it and agree it's a show for women. I never watched it except when I was a kid in the fifties.

ricpic said...

How depressing that millions get up with a hunger to be forcefed the agenda first thing in the morning.

Oso Negro said...

I am reminded of the Sex Pistols "Who Killed Bambi?"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQfzQ79OQkY

EMD said...

Lauer losing his hair (and on-air sexual potency) was probably more of an issue.

wyo sis said...

I haven't watched a network morning show since. . . ever.

I watched the Fox morning show (whatever it's called) until the twin towers went down, then I quit watching morning news at all.

My life is better in the morning without all that fake cheer and bad news.

Now I get most of my news from the internet.

Maybe the morning shows are failing because of factors other than women, like the changing way we get information.

john said...

Goes to show you should never allow a lineman, even from Harvard, to have any day-to-day responsibility for something as important of running a show like this.

You never know, it could snow down south one day, and he would be taken completely out of New York until those lines were repaired.

It's a dangerous job too.

Sam L. said...

I'm with dreams. Thing is, it's show biz, and it seems like everybody's bitchy.

MayBee said...

Ann Curry was horrible, though. They didn't get rid of her because they were sexist. They got rid of her because she was unwatchable.

Hagar said...

I thought Ann Curry was the best they had, a pro that could fill in for any task on a moment's notice, so it would make excellent sense for NBC management to fire her.

But I really thought the underlying reason was that she filled her various roles as directed without showing what she really thought, and may have been suspected of not being quite politically reliable.

MayBee said...

But she had no personality, except to be nice. Nice isn't entertaining.
And she always did that concerned face and head nod when she would interview people.

She was fine when she was the newsreader.

Shanna said...

I cannot deal with this kind of television but if Ann wanted to sock it to them she did a good job:

"Just one day after Curry signed off, the advantage “Today” had over its top rival, ABC’s “Good Morning America,” turned into a 600,000-viewer deficit. "

Mitchell the Bat said...

There are people out there who think of the performers on morning TV as their personal friends.

mishu said...

WGN Morning News is the only show that's any good. Thanks to the gov't, it's blocked from broadcasting to the rest of the nation:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syndication_exclusivity

mccullough said...

Since the ratings still suck its time to fire Bell now.

Marshal said...

“‘Chemistry,’ in television history, generally means the man does not want to work with the woman,” Curry was known to have remarked. “It’s an excuse generally used by men in positions of power to say, ‘The woman doesn’t work.’ ”

It's not heard to believe the show was mismanged. But I'm turned off by general appeals to sexism. If Curry thinks her circumstance was due to sexism say so, and back it up. But claiming "chemisty" is a sexist issue is bullshit. It's a fact that drives male coworker dynamics also. Sports Center was never as good after Dan Patrick and Keith Olberman; PTI is a thousand times better than its imitators: both due to chemistry.

That some decisions are wrong or unfair is inevitable in a subjective environment. But to claim all such unfairness impacting women - which seems to be the totality of Curry's assertion - is clearly wrong.

Shana said...

Thank God for the internet. I haven't had to tune in to a morning show to hear the news for years. Sometimes the doctors' or dentists' offices like to torture you with them, though.

Marshal said...

mccullough said...
Since the ratings still suck its time to fire Bell now.


According to the article he was offered the chance to "evolve" the show or produce the Olympics. He chose the Olympics.

Xmas said...

Did they learn nothing from the Pauley-Norville fiasco?!?

AJ Lynch said...

Wasn't Bell the culprit in the edited Trayvon /Zimmerman tape that purported to show Zimmerman was not prompted [by the police dispatcher] to report the race of Trayvon?

Baron Zemo said...

I have appeared on the Today show and Ann Curry was a lovely woman.

On the other hand the crew and staff were horrible.

The best staff by far was on the Wendy Williams show. Super professional and prepared.

The Today Show was just totally fucked up. The gold standard for crapitude in the news media.

traditionalguy said...

Katie Couric was the best they ever had. She could out duel the TV Executives.

whoresoftheinternet said...

Ya know, if the non-journalists and freedom-haters at NBC had really been professional, they would have pulled Curry aside during Viera's reign and told Curry that they wanted to train her for the co-host position.

If NBC were so concerned about transitions and giving the appearance of "family", then a carrot-and-stick approach before Curry took the slot would have been appropriate.

But no: those Obama whores just shoved her out there, thinking she would fail, and then yanked her back too quickly to let her fix the problems.

Like with Conan.

Obama whores at NBC really likes taking a shit on its loyal employees, that's for sure.

AprilApple said...

I'd rather eat a dirt sandwich that watch those propaganda filled morning shows.

Edward Lunny said...

But.....but....I thought that only conservatives ,republicans, treated women poorly........Heh, heh, heh. Shades of the Obama white house, do as I say, not as I do.

Secondly, she entered into a business populated by men, a majority of men, and expected to be treated differently in the competition. Kinda clueless wasn't she ?

Finally, If you're going to suggest that sexism is why you were fired, then say so, this beating around the bush baloney, is just that.....baloney. Buck up and state your case.

Mick Havoc said...

I only watch Fox Business

Pretty women with great educations and killer wardrobes.

With big racks

dwarzel said...

They ought to purge them all and bring back J. Fred Muggs, who at last report, is still alive and well.

madAsHell said...

I'm pretty sure that Matt Lauer spent junior high stuffed into his coat locker.

SMGalbraith said...

Ann Curry was awful. Her questions were insipid and without substance. Just horrible.

Granted, it's a morning show and we're not talking about Oxford Union debating-style substance. But even by the low standard of morning shows Curry was just flat out unqualified.

If she was a man she would have never gotten that job.

There you go.

virgil xenophon said...

We on the right ignore these AM programs at our peril. Post_Katrina we were w.o cable for a considerable period and the antenna & broadcast TV was all we had. The amount of subtle left-wing bias inserted into these shows is incredible--they are saturated with it. Two of the more egregious examples within a week of each other, one on ABC, the other NBC:

Remember that horrible home invasion in Conn where the Mother and two daughters were raped and burned alive and only the husband survived?
Well, The Morning show responded with a special about "home security." All aspects of locks, safe-rooms, etc., were analyzed save one. Anyone care to guess which one? Bingo, as Neil Boortz said to me via interruption and in anticipation of my punch-line when I was on the phone on his talk show bringing it to his attention; "They couldn't bring themselves, could they? They couldn't bring themselves to even CONSIDER that owning a gun for self defense might be the best form of 'home security' and that the family might be alive today if they had been armed instead of being slaughtered."

The second incident took place a week previously when the Today Show had to have spent literally millions in moving the show to Ireland to celebrate what was then known as the "Irish (economic) Miracle."
Yet NOT ONCE in their "celebration" of what was (then) an economic
success story, with Ireland being hailed as the economic "Tiger" of Europe (ala the Asian "economic "Tigers") did they touch upon, did a single syllable or consonant escape from anyone's lips about the supposed basis for said "miracle", i.e., the governments tax policy which drastically lowered both corporate and individual tax rates. Yet how could one logically celebrate a "miracle"--and incur all the costs of trans-Antlantic show relocation--without ONCE alluding to the basis for that miracle--the first question that logically comes to one's mind?

Now the people who produce these shows are NOT dumb people--such things as guns for home security and tax policy are NOT left out by accidental oversight or ignorance of the facts. CONSCIOUS DECISIONS by program staff have to be made as to what to include/exclude in a given program and the leftist bias in not wanting to present any facts that run counter to the leftist narrative (guns as useful for self defense and lower taxes as a spur to economic activity) is blatantly obvious in the two cases cited. It takes a powerful case of ideological blinders to ignore/suppress such questions. Thus hat these cases represent is a constant diet of slanted propaganda wrapped-p/disguised as FYI happy-talk; as "news" polarized via slyly subtle omission,--all with the deftest of light touch for the consideration of the coffee-klatching suburban house-wife. And these people VOTE with GREAT regularity.

whoresoftheinternet said...

@virgil xenophon:

We could solve the problem much more easily---repealing the 19th Amendment. Those morning shows influence the weak-minded who value "getting along" over the correct, hard answers. I.e. women.

But we won't....till it's too late. Enjoy the decline, short-sighted fools!

Peter said...

"Many executives at the network never grasped how profoundly hurt and humiliated [Ann] Curry remained — not just by her televised dismissal but by all the backstage machinations that led to that fateful morning."

I am sorrybut, this is pathetic. If you have a high profile spot in the entertainment world you surely must realize it's not all rose-petals-in-the-toilet, that there are people who have long knives out for you?

When you play with the big boys, things get rough. And we're supposed to believe big girls would play nicer?

And, it's televison. Looks matter.

And, umm, no matter how long you work somewhere or how much you're paid, you should never start thinking of your employer's premises as your home-away-from home. It can (and someday probably will) all vanish for you in a "New York minute."

edutcher said...

They lost me when they lost J Fred Muggs.

PS Nobody is as mean as a mean woman.

Smilin' Jack said...

I just want to excerpt some of the imputations of sexism:...Bell hatched a careful three-part plan: 1.) persuade Lauer to extend his expiring contract; 2.) oust Curry; 3.) replace her with Savannah Guthrie.

Never seen the show, but if you say this is sexism, it must be true. Still, Savannah seems like an unusual name for a man.

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

Interesting article. Totally foreign subject matter. Who watches morning TV shows?

Morning is time to sit with a cup of black coffee and scroll thru Drudge, Instapundit, and Althouse.

When Fox went light on serious news, we shucked the Cable.

raf said...

You never know, it could snow down south one day, and he would be taken completely out of New York until those lines were repaired.

That's only true for County linemen. NYC linemen, being highly unionized, cannot be required to work "down south" or excessive hours.

(Just to show you someone gets the reference.)

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

And, umm, no matter how long you work somewhere or how much you're paid, you should never start thinking of your employer's premises as your home-away-from home. It can (and someday probably will) all vanish for you in a "New York minute."

That, too. Altho I am retired and no longer sign payroll checks I notice when the man/woman-in-the-street on TV talks about "my job." Hey, fella (or lady) it's the *employer's* job.

Michael said...

One of the smartest and most financialy successful guys I have ever known eschewed all newspapers, including the WSJ, in favor of USA Today which he saw as a magnifying glass into the mind of middle America. This guy hired a tenured philosophy professor as a tutor in the study of Hegel's writings. He was not a dumb guy.

I think morning programs destroy brain cells at a rapid pace.

Broomhandle said...

Althouse is my morning show. Quick stop by Instapundit, Althouse with my banana, slice of toast, and jumbo mug o' tea, brush my teeth and go to work. It's a wonderful life.

ampersand said...

I don't believe the Today Show was created for women. I think it(d)evolved into that format. I last watched it when Tom Brokaw was anchor. They had 5 or 10 minutes of hard news and five minutes local. I watched it as I got ready for work.

sydney said...

Undeterred, Bell hatched a careful three-part plan: 1.) persuade Lauer to extend his expiring contract; 2.) oust Curry; 3.) replace her with Savannah Guthrie. According to this source, Bell called his plan Operation Bambi......

...the business is, even now, managed mostly by men


It might be managed by men, but that kind of behavior is not the behavior of a straight-shooting manly man. That's the behavior of a mean girl. A straight shooting manly man takes the offending employee aside, tells them what's wrong, and if they don't fix it, they're out.

virgil xenophon said...

@ampersand/

If anybody comes back to this thread I'll just say I'm old enough to remember the start of all the am shows and you're right, they evolved. CBS was the last "news-centric" am show by several decades--and it showed in falling ratings. Morning TV is NOTHING but coffe-klatching now..

(PS: I can remember when Jack Paar was CBS Morning show host with Charles Collingswood as the news reader, lol. It had a live audience and Country-Western singer/sausage king Jimmy Dean was a frequent live performer. It went all hard news after Paar left--they should have stuck w. Jimmy Dean--would probably have lead the ratings..)

openidname said...

I read the article. Not impressed.

The Times's agenda is that Ann Curry is some kind of victim of patriarchy/lack of diversity. The article itself, however, reads like a litany of First World problems. Boo-hoo-hoo, NBC executives took me out to Le Grenouille and made me think I'd get to keep my $5 million job forever, even though I was dong a crappy job.

Kevin Walsh said...

Why should I feel so bad about Ann Curry? She is still under contract for multimillions. Boo f---in' Hoo...

Kevin Walsh said...

Why should I feel so bad about Ann Curry? She is still under contract for multimillions. Boo f---in' Hoo...

Biff said...

The Professor wrote: Women are very sensitive to meanness.

1) And men aren't? Or is it a matter of differently perceived responses to "meanness," whether accurate or not?

2) Having participated in many years of harassment/sensitivity training sessions, I'm pretty sure about what I'd be expected to do if I heard even the most sensitive male employee say that "women are very sensitive to meanness."

3) "Sensitive." Is it a kind of "N-word" for women? Women can use the word to describe women, but it's extraordinarily dangerous for a man to use it to describe a woman, unless it's clearly used to indicate that women are superior to men, and even then, it's fraught with risk.

4) What does "meanness" even mean?