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Larry Atkins

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Ann Curry's Dismissal Was a Setback for Asian-Americans

Posted: 07/10/2012 10:57 am

Evidently, Ann Curry wasn't enough to spice up the Today Show.

Curry was forced out as co-host of the Today Show and was replaced by Savannah Guthrie, who made her official debut today. While the Today Show's ratings declined during Curry's tenure, and Guthrie should be fine, it's still sad to see Curry go. It also strikes a blow against minority journalists, particularly Asians. Curry is biracial, with Japanese roots. She was born in Guam to a Japanese mother and a father with French, Scottish, and Irish heritage.

During her tearful goodbye, Curry said, "For all of you who saw me as a groundbreaker, I'm sorry I couldn't carry the ball to the finish line, but, man, I did try."

It has been reported that Curry will remain with NBC News as an anchor at large and national and international correspondent.

The Today Show has dominated the morning show ratings since the 1990s, but its lead over ABC's Good Morning America has diminished ever since Curry replaced Meredith Vieira a year ago.

While many people cite Curry's apparent tension with co-host Matt Lauer as the main reason for her ouster, some journalists, including Tom Huang of Poynter.org and Mike Hale, New York Times' TV and film critic, have speculated that part of the reason for Curry's ouster have to do with her race and cultural upbringing.

The Asian American Journalists Association announced its disappointment with NBC's decision in a statement that read in part:

When NBCUniversal named Ann Curry as co-host of the 'Today' show more than a year ago, the Asian American Journalists Association applauded the move. The hiring confirmed the network's strong commitment to diversity, so her departure from such a high-profile role is all the more disappointing... We hope that NBC News keeps diversity at top of mind as it makes on-air assignments for 'Today', especially considering that Asian Americans are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population.

A June 2012 Pew Report states that Asian Americans are the fastest growing minority group in the country, making up nearly 6 percent of the U.S. population and overtaking Hispanics in terms of new immigrants. There are approximately 18.2 million Asian Americans. The Pew Survey found that 19 percent of the Asian Americans surveyed had personally experienced discrimination or had been treated unfairly in the past year due to their country of origin.

Despite the growing population numbers, there are few prominent Asians in the national media and they tend to be underrepresented in journalism. There are some, such as Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Fareed Zakaria, but they are the exceptions. In addition, there are still many Asian stereotypical portrayals in the media and entertainment. Issues of concern to Asian Americans tend to be ignored by the media and there are few Asian American politicians and government leaders.

One of the reasons why there was such public fanfare of the emergence of Jeremy Lin, the Asian American New York Knick who burst on the national radar last season, was that there are so few Asian American public figures and celebrities. Despite the fact that most of the coverage was positive, stereotyping and prejudice reared its head in some of the media coverage. An ESPN staffer was fired for using the phrase "Chink in the Armor" after the Knicks had lost a game.

"Representing Asian Americans in our civic dialogue and political representation falls on the shoulders of politicians, news organizations and Asian Americans themselves," Seattle Times columnist Sharon Pian Chan said last month. "News organizations -- yes, I'm calling ourselves out -- need to cover Asian American issues in their communities. We are a trusted source of information for political candidates and elected officials. Are they reflected in the health-care debate? Are they part of news stories about the economic recovery and the small-business environment?"

It's hard to describe Ann Curry's firing as blatant racial discrimination. Low ratings, her personality, and her relationship with Matt Lauer were the most likely causes for her dismissal. However, her ouster brings attention to the fact that Asian Americans continue to be nearly invisible in the media and as public figures. Hopefully, this incident can spur a change.

 
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