News broke today that Ryan Seacrest is the top choice to replace Matt Lauer on the “Today” show. This is a terrible idea for a variety of reasons.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Seacrest met with NBC executives, including “Today” show executive producer Jim Bell, NBC News President Steve Capus and Lauren Kapp, NBC’s senior vice president for marketing and communications, Tuesday evening to discuss replacing Lauer on the top-rated morning news program if the veteran anchor decides to retire from his morning post when his contract is up next year. Lauer first appeared on “Today” in 1992, filling in for former newsreader Margaret Larson when needed. He joined the program full-time as a news anchor/reporter in 1994, while also still anchoring “Today in New York” and “Live at Five,” and officially assumed the co-anchor chair opposite Katie Couric in January 1997, replacing Bryant Gumble.
While Lauer said earlier this year that he has no plans to leave NBC, more recent reports have suggested he may be interested in reuniting with Couric when her ABC talk show launches in the fall of 2012. Insiders report that he has been indicating to NBC execs privately that he may leave the show.
We mean no offense to Seacrest when we say he would be a misguided replacement for Lauer. He is a charming interviewer and a dynamic host. But he is not a hard-news journalist. To successfully anchor the “Today” show you have to be all three of these things.
Seacrest’s lack of journalistic chops are important because of the dynamic of “Today.” Even if he could, for the sake of argument, capably deliver the morning news from behind the desk, the show has always had one anchor who stays principally in New York to deliver the news and one anchor who is able to serve as a news correspondent from locations abroad. Lauer has acted as the latter, reporting from Iraq and China, among numerous other locations, while Meredith Vieira and now Ann Curry have manned the desk in Rockefeller Center. Without a solid background in journalism, it’s almost impossible to imagine Seacrest reporting on the conflict in the Middle East from that region of the world.
Seacrest can easily command the “American Idol” stage because he is charismatic and is a good fit to anchor “E! News” and host his morning radio program because audiences see him as an authority on entertainment matters. And while Lauer does his fair share of celebrity interviews and cooking segments, he also has to interview world leaders like President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin and report on world news affairs.
How you ask then-First Lady Hillary Clinton about the Monica Lewinsky scandal is an entirely different ballgame than asking Kim Kardashian about her love life. It requires an innate seriousness that Seacrest doesn’t have, a credibility that has been chipped away by years of asking starlets who they’re wearing.
The gravitas it takes to co-host the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games is very different than the panache needed to hold the fort on the Oscars red carpet.
Again, we’re not trying to dismiss Seacrest’s talents. He’s great at what he does; it’s why he’s become such a massively successful businessman in the entertainment/celebrity sphere. But when it comes right down to it, what does your gut tell you when you think about getting your morning world news report from the host of “American Idol” and the producer of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”?