Morning news is an easy target for mockery. What with the endless stream of missing white co-ed stories masquerading as hard news and the piddly human-interest stories that always seem to involve empathetic canines . Despite its fluffiness, I have a deep and abiding love of the Today Show for one reason, and her name is Meredith Vieira. When I read last night that she might be leaving when her contract is up later this year , I gasped aloud. My mornings will be bleak and barren without her gentle news delivery!
In all seriousness I have profound respect for Vieira, who manages to discuss the bombings in Libya and animal hoarders with the same level of gravitas. The key to her charm is that despite her reporting bona fides (she was a 60 Minutes correspondent and reporter before she joined the gals over at The View in the ‘90s), she never takes herself too seriously. When she does the Today Show ‘s lighter fare, there’s always the wink-nod undercurrent of, we all know this is faintly ridiculous but I’m having fun with it anyway . A Good Housekeeping interview with Vieira from a few years ago has an anecdote that captures Vieira’s combination of good nature and sass. Her husband, Richard Cohen, was describing the first time he met Meredith to the interviewer:
He calls their initial encounter “contempt at first sight.” Walking by Vieira’s CBS Chicago office, he saw her lying on a couch watching Looney Tunes on TV. “Very impressive,” he said. “A real journalist.” She swore at him, then criticized a news segment he produced. “I thought she was exceedingly attractive and had a big mouth, both highly acceptable qualities,” Cohen recalls. The attraction was mutual.
Another thing that’s so admirable about Vieira-when she had kids, she made the mommy track work for her. When she was at 60 Minutes , she tried to work out a flexible schedule that involved working at home for part of the time and in the office for part of the time. But according to that Good Housekeeping interview, when she turned down a reporting assignment that involved travel, the show’s producers grew cold. So she left, and ultimately was offered the job moderating The View , which put her on the path to Today Show host. She’s probably more famous and successful now than she would have been had she continued as a reporter, and she got to spend time with her family, too.
Her family-particularly her husband, who has MS-is the main reason cited for Vieira’s desire to leave Today . TV Guide is reporting that Ann Curry is the frontrunner to replace Meredith. Curry does not have the on-camera ease that Vieira has, or the interviewing chops ( click here for a takedown of Curry’s interview stylings ). Matt Lauer, who will stay on as anchor either way, is often smug ( Update! Lauer is reportedly considering leaving now, too ). There’s great deal of brand loyalty to morning shows, so I will probably still have the Today Show as a backdrop to my coffee-drinking. But Meredith! She will leave a gaping hole in my a.m. that cannot be filled!
Photograph of Meredith Vieira by Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images.