With every new story about Matt Lauer and The Today Show, I become more and more convinced that he’s a really horrible person to work with. I know, he’s America’s nice guy. He and Katie Couric were sweeter than a couple of cupcakes. I realize that I’m insulting television royalty here. But I get the impression that Mr. Lauer is one of the worst co-workers I can imagine.
Ever since the Today Show anchor signed his enormous new contract with NBC, rumors have swirled that he was shoving Ann Curry out from her current position as co-host. Curry has faced plenty of criticism on her own during her tenor as Matt’s partner, but a large part of the media interest was centered on the fact that the two journalists just didn’t get along. And right around the time of Matt’s new contract and the amped up interest in Curry’s future with the show, Matt took a pretty snarky swipe at former-Governor Sarah Palin in the lead-up to her guest-hosting gig with Today.
As if all that dram wasn’t creating enough tension on the set, Lauer is now speaking out about the problems at the show. ”Times are harder there right now,” he said. “I think it’s been well publicized. We are — the show is not where I want it to be right now. The ratings are not where I want them to be … I want to make it better.” That seems pretty fair, if a little self-centered. I’m sure that there are producers and directors who also frustrated with being eclipsed by Good Morning America for the first time in 16 years. It’s probably not just Matt Lauer who wants to make things better, but I can see what he means.
Then he follows up,”When people start to write articles about what might be wrong with the ‘Today’ show you know where you should point the finger,” he said. “Point it at me because I have been there the longest. And it’s my responsibility.”
Hold up there. I’m all for taking responsibility for your actions. But when you say that a show’s sole success is based on you, I think it points to a serious problem with how you’re interacting with your co-workers. Matt Lauer is not the only person working on The Today Show and to say that it’s success is his responsibility means that no one else will really impact the performance.
The more I think about the conceit behind those statements, the more I want to tell Matt Lauer that he’s right about one thing. We should be writing about him when we write about the problems at his show, just not for the reasons he imagines. The problem isn’t with his sole performance, I think the problem is the obvious lack of teamwork. America didn’t love Matt Lauer just because he was endearing and charming, though he obviously can be. People loved watching his friendship with Katie Couric, and with Meredith Vieira after her.
Every business, including those in the entertainment industry, needs to work together. People need to be held accountable, but they also have to accept that they don’t work in a vacuum. Everyone’s performance effects their co-workers and supervisors. Matt Lauer is partially to blame for The Today Show‘s sink in the ratings. But saying that it’s all about him and that the whole show is his responsibility isn’t going to fix his problems there. I wouldn’t want to work with someone who thinks that his contributions are the only ones that matter.