Why The Problem With The Today Show Has Nothing To Do With the Anchor(s)

In recent days, from Twitter to blogs to office cubicles, much has been made about anchor Ann Curry’s forced departure from NBC’s Today Show. Lots of speculation has focused on why NBC execs wanted her in a different role. There has been a lot of chatter about whether she is scapegoat for the show’s relative ratings slide. But there hasn’t been enough conversation, publicly, about the real problem with the Today Show.

It’s the content.

Not too long ago, the first hour of Today helped establish the show’s dominance and profit making ability as a bona fide hard news program. You could watch the 7am hour (here in the Eastern Time Zone) and get caught up on the news while looking ahead at the headlines the day was expected to generate. There was reporting, analysis and interviews (often tough ones) with newsmakers. The first 15 minutes of the Today show was the capsule of news that could tell you what you needed to know before heading out the door.

But, somewhere along the way, Today lost its way. The content, even in the first hour, shifted to celebrity news, stunt reporting, crime from around the country and a lot of conversation about the weather in New York. Fabricated stories, like contests, features on properties owned by co-owned Universal and Rockefeller Plaza concerts, took precedence over real news. Often times, Today has looked like a parody of local news rather than the top echelon of national broadcasting. These decisions were probably rationalized as “giving people what they want,” but the ratings prove otherwise.

Sure, when there’s a big national story, Today is on it. But, day to day, if you won’t watch, you don’t miss anything. While TV is personality-driven (often the difference-maker among similar shows for the audience), content, as they say, is king.

Just like in all of our businesses, it’s important for us to connect with people we like. But, to build credibility and a relationship, there has to be substance behind the smile.