Jordan Wertlieb, chairman of the NBC affiliates board, saluted Ann Curry for her "graceful and heartfelt" on-air exit from an anchor role at Today, and said he welcomes Curry in a new role that taps her hard news chops.
"Ann is a world class journalist," Wertlieb says. "Her contributions are significant, and it will be good to see her in what's an area of strength for her."
Curry has signed a new long-term contract to be Today's anchor-at-large and a national/international correspondent for NBC News.
Wertlieb is executive VP of Hearst Television, which owns 10 NBC affiliates. He formerly ran one of them, in WBAL Baltimore. Wertlieb echoes the sentiments of numerous NBC affiliates, who have deep respect for Curry on the global news stage. Several general managers at NBC's partner stations found her a less than ideal fit on the Today sofa, where her news instincts didn't always serve the show's softer segments.
With the energized Good Morning America pushing Today in the ratings, Wertlieb acknowledges there are "a lot of chefs in the kitchen" among the affiliates community, with lots of idea on how to get Today back to its previous position of primacy. He noted that a wide range of elements on both sides of the camera make a show zing, not just one of the anchors. Numerous affiliates voice their support of NBC News president Steve Capus; Wertlieb, too, is putting his trust in network brass to make the right changes.
"I defer to NBC to do what's best for the Today show," Wertlieb says. "They're good stewards of the show."
Savannah Guthrie, who hosts the third hour of Today, looks like the successor to Curry. Wertlieb said an announcement from NBC on that front would be made "in short order," but would not weigh in on what he called personnel matters.
Looking long term, Wertlieb said he was not concerned about NBC's daytime moneymaker.
"If you're an NBC affiliate that was No. 1, you'd like to be No. 1 again," he says. "When you're not No. 1, there's concern. But it's a well produced show. Would I like to see it return to its position of stature? Of course I would."