Ann Curry's Today Show Farewell: Why so Sorry?

Did Ann Curry really just apologize for "dropping the ball?" After 15 years on "The Today Show," reporting from war-torn countries, interviewing world leaders, and even dressing up on Halloween, the veteran journalist's farewell seemed more like a mea culpa than a respectable send-off.

Why wasn't she "mad as hell"? After weeks of finger-pointing for dropped ratings and a much-anticipated demotion, Curry got only a few minutes and a sympathetic pep talk from her coworkers as a goodbye. In the process she insinuated her own failure as an anchor, despite protestations from fans.

"For all of you who saw me as a groundbreaker, I am sorry I could not carry the ball across the finish line," Curry uttered through tears.

Matt Lauer's lower lip practically jutted out in "sad baby face" as the 54-year-old professional expressed a rare moment of vulnerability. He called her heart big and praised her caring nature. At least, Al Roker and Natalie Morales brought up her excellent tsunami and war veteran coverage.

But nobody said directly "you didn't fail" or "you're not blame." It was a failing on NBC's part to leave so much of the flashbacks to her accomplishments in the hands of her improvising coworkers.

"The ball" Curry referred to was code for ratings. As media reporters have suggested, Curry's journalistic disposition hadn't won over as many morning show viewers' hearts as did Meredith Vieira, who she replaced on "the couch" last year. Complaints over her lack of "chemistry" with Lauer were jockeyed around enough that part of her departing speech included the implied protestation: "Matt and I have had great on-air chemistry for 14 years."

Related: Meredith Vieira gives tearful 'Today Show' farewell

It's hard to blame Curry for feeling weakened after a very public ousting, but as she hunched over, getting light pats from less-accomplished journalists, her apology to viewers felt wrong. More to blame is NBC's poor execution of a staffing change or the ruthless ratings game, or our own desire as viewers to see female anchors more exposed and less professional on morning TV. Remember, Kathie Lee and Hoda are doing just fine with morning cocktails four out of five times a week.

Overall, Curry's been lauded by colleagues and critics for handling her departure with "class." The Huffington Post's media blog backed Curry up, pointing the finger at NBC on Twitter: "Meredith Vieira got a two-hour farewell. Ann Curry was given 5 minutes after 15 years on the show."

The only indication of Curry's cynicism on the matter came when she talked about her "fancy new title," an office politics phrase used when higher-ups are politely demoted. Lauer, like Bridget Jones' stunt-news boss, seemed to validate the levity of her new correspondent position saying "we're going to continue to put you on planes, maybe ask you to jump out of one or two."

It was, overall, a cringe-worthy farewell, as morning show partings often are. At the same time, Curry gave the network a moment it craved badly: the usually stoic workhorse suddenly vulnerable. But did it send the wrong message?

Related: Katie Couric leaving CBS: Why was Charlie Sheen given more shots?

As it stands, Curry is rumored to be replaced by Savannah Guthrie, a woman more than a decade younger than her, who is believed to have more "chemistry" with Lauer. Should an esteemed, accomplished journalist really apologize for not winning what seems like a sexist, unfair, and unjust race? Not according to an outpouring of fans commenting on her farewell speech posted to Yahoo's homepage this morning.

"How can they blame ratings on one person?" wrote one commenter, who echoed of a chorus of complaints over Lauer's performance of late. Others blamed NBC for "bullying" the anchor, calling their treatment of Curry on her last day "cruel" and "embarrassing."

"It's all about entertainment and ratings," wrote one commenter. "There was a time when the Today Show was really about news, [but] not anymore. More power to Ms. Curry, she is the only one on there who is truly a journalist anyway."

Maybe Curry's farewell should have had an inkling more of that defiance, though considering her continued work with NBC and her rumored $10 million payout, she may have been smart to leave the "mad as hell" speech to her fans.

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