NEW YORK -- After nearly five years as co-anchor of TODAY, Meredith Vieira has decided to leave the show in June. Ann Curry will take her place as co-anchor of America's No. 1 morning show alongside Matt Lauer. Meredith will continue in a new role at NBC News, with an official announcement in the coming months.
TODAY has planned a tribute to Vieira during Wednesday morning's show. Producers will be highlighting her career and paying tribute to her time on the TODAY show.
The show will also welcome Ann Curry as the co-anchor of TODAY Wednesday. Though loyal TODAY viewers are familiar with Curry, the show's producers will nevertheless be re-introducing her in her new role.
A new TODAY
Ann Curry has been TODAY's news anchor since March 1997, and has has distinguished herself in global humanitarian reporting, frequently traveling to remote areas - including Haiti, Sudan, Serbia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo - to find and highlight important, under-reported stories. Working alongside Matt Lauer, Ann will continue to report on the news and newsmakers that matter most to TODAY's viewers.
"Ann has been such a key member of this show for more than 15 years, has brought her warmth and her desire to tell important stories to TODAY," Matt said on Monday. "And I know you'll continue to do that, so congratulations."
"So sweet. So sweet. You know, I feel like the high school computer nerd who was just asked to the prom by the quarterback of the football team," Ann responded.
In a statement, TODAY executive producer Jim Bell said, "We now head into TODAY's next chapter with a woman who can quite literally leap tall buildings in a single bound. Often reporting from different time zones and disaster scenes, Ann Curry is one of the hardest-working women in television, and she couldn't be more valuable as our newest co-anchor."
NBC News president Steve Capus said, "As Meredith turns the page, we are so very fortunate to welcome Ann as co-anchor. I've known her since our early days together on 'NBC News at Sunrise' and it's been a joy to watch her break news, break boundaries and evolve into one of America's top journalists. She's beloved by our viewers and our news division."
Natalie Morales has been a member of the TODAY family for more than five years. She joined the show as a national correspondent in February 2006 and was named co-host of the third hour in March 2008. Morales has also served as a national correspondent for all NBC News platforms, including "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams," Dateline NBC," and msnbc. Prior to joining TODAY, Morales was an anchor and correspondent at msnbc from March 2002 to February 2006.
Savannah Guthrie currently serves as NBC News White House correspondent as well as the co-host of "The Daily Rundown" on msnbc. She contributes to all NBC News properties including "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams," TODAY and msnbc.
"We have the luxury to bring such talent like Savannah up from D.C. to join the TODAY team - she'll be great in the 9 a.m. hour and everywhere else we can showcase her legal and political background," said Capus. "With the strength of TODAY's many valuable players both on air and behind the scenes, we will undoubtedly accomplish another smooth transition and continue to be who America turns to every morning."
TODAY's current third hour co-host, Natalie Morales, has been named news anchor, and NBC News White House correspondent and msnbc anchor Savannah Guthrie will be co-host of the third hour of TODAY. The new anchor team will debut in June.
"I've really had a great time, but time is one of those weird things; you can never get enough of it," Vieira said when the announcement was initially made. "And it just keeps ticking away, and I know that I want to spend more of mine with my husband, Richard, and my kids, Ben, Gabe and Lily."
Matt Lauer spoke for the TODAY team when he said they felt "blessed" to have worked with Meredith. "Meredith is universally adored here at TODAY," he said. "And not just by those of us on the couch, but all the people behind the scenes. She has brought class and dignity and talent. And a joy of life to this show over these last five years. And we will miss you like crazy."
"You've been a gift to this broadcast," Ann Curry chimed in. "You have been generous and you have been a great girlfriend."
TODAY's anchors aren't the only ones who will miss Meredith when she leaves the show. "Meredith is a remarkable woman and broadcaster who in five short years has left an indelible imprint on morning television," NBC News president Steve Capus said in a statement. "While we will miss waking up with her each morning, we are working together on developing her next chapter at NBC News."
TODAY executive producer Jim Bell said in a statement, "Meredith has been a part of the family since day one, connecting not only to our viewers, but also to each and every member of TODAY. Her transition into the role of co-anchor alongside Matt was as seamless as anyone in my position could have ever hoped for or imagined. With an innate grace and a rare combination of humor and humanity, she truly breaks the mold."
Meredith, 57, joined Matt at the anchor desk in September 2006 when Katie Couric left to anchor the CBS Evening News. Since then, the TODAY audience has come to know Meredith as a distinguished and savvy newswoman - with a zany streak.
Meredith has brought warmth and empathy to her interviews, and she has profiled many individuals who have undergone significant tragedies or unexpected upheavals in their lives. She introduced the world to Charla Nash, the woman who survived an unspeakable chimp attack that disfigured her face, but didn't dampen her spirit. She also brought viewers the emotional story of David Goldman, the New Jersey man who fought a five-year custody battle to recover his son Sean from his ex-wife's family in Brazil.
Meredith has conducted hard-hitting interviews with political figures such as Sen. Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, and she spoke with former CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson in her first-ever live television interview after her identity was revealed. Her memorable exclusive celebrity interviews include Janet Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Susan Boyle, Kate Gosselin, and Madonna.
TODAY has also been a place for Meredith to show off her humorous side, whether while ice skating with Will Ferrell (and smacking her head on the ice!), dressing up as Lady Gaga for Halloween or joking about polishing James Franco's Oscar.
Meredith the professional
Meredith - a native of Providence, R.I., and a graduate of Tufts University in Massachusetts - began her journalism career in 1975. Her first job was a news announcer position for WORC-Radio in Worcester, Mass.
She went on to join CBS News as a reporter in its Chicago bureau in January 1982. She was named a correspondent in 1984 and covered Sen. Alan Cranston's presidential bid, the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco and, as a correspondent, election night 1984.
Meredith spent more than a decade at CBS News, where she earned five Emmy Awards for her work as a correspondent on newsmagazines and "West 57th" and "60 Minutes." She was a co-editor of "60 Minutes" from 1989 to 1991, and left the program when she was pregnant with her second child.
In 1993 she joined ABC and became chief correspondent of "Turning Point," which debuted in March 1994. In 1997, she joined ABC's "The View" as one of its original moderators.
Today, she continues to serve as host of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," a position she's held since 2002. She won two Daytime Emmy Awards for her role on that show, in 2005 and again in 2009.
Meredith the person
Perhaps more than any other position she's held, Meredith's role as TODAY co-anchor has allowed her to open up to millions - and has allowed viewers to feel as if they know her personally. Meredith took TODAY viewers with her on a journey to explore her family's Portuguese heritage, and invited us to join her as she returned to her very first job as a tap-dancing instructor. Viewers have gotten to know her family, including her mischievous dog Jasper, a frequent visitor to the TODAY set.
Meredith's husband, Emmy-award winning journalist Richard Cohen, has also appeared on TODAY. During a three-part series that aired in January 2008, the author and multiple sclerosis sufferer discussed his book, "Strong at the Broken Places," which tells hopeful stories about five people also living with chronic illnesses.
"We're all human beings, we're not cases," Cohen told TODAY's Ann Curry. "We're people trying to build lives, trying to have relationships, families, and lead a very productive, satisfying life."
In the next chapter of her life, Meredith says she looks forward to spending more time with Richard and their three children - and sleeping in. She knows she is leaving TODAY in capable hands with Ann Curry in the anchor seat.
As for the TODAY anchors, they still have some time to revisit their favorite Meredith memories before she leaves in June. "We've got a few weeks to torment you - I mean, pay tribute to you - and we're going to do a lot of that," Matt promised Meredith.