“Today” on NBC is a bit of an American institution. The morning news program has featured a lineage of respected news anchors: Tom Brokaw, Barbara Walters, Jane Pauley, Bryant Gumbel, Katie Couric, Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira. While they are many news programs to choose from in the morning, “Today” achieves the highest ratings and consistently lands the biggest interviews. It is a program where political candidates request to be interviewed in order to be seen. Unfortunately for the candidates, the anchors have proven to be tough interviewers over the years. Katie Couric may be effervescent and goofy during the fourth half-hour, but Couric became known as a strong interviewer who was not intimidated when interviewing then-President George H. W. Bush, Middle Eastern leaders, O.J. Simpson, oil executives or John and Patsy Ramsey. Matt Lauer’s interviewing skills have sharpened over the years. Lauer appeared to catch President George W. Bush off guard with his questions and the President seemed flustered and angry when responding. Lauer’s interviews have delivered some historic moments over the years. It was during a Lauer interview on “Today” that Hilary Clinton claimed that a “vast right-wing conspiracy” was trying to bring down her husband. Clinton also argued that the nation should be concerned if the President was having an adulterous affair and lying to the American public, but the first-lady assured Lauer that that wouldn’t be the case.
The heart of “Today’s” success lies with NBC’s news budget, the network’s primetime assets and the show’s ability to connect with audiences. While some news pundits argue the show can be too fluffy, the later half-hours enable viewers to feel as though they “know” the anchors and it builds a trust. Katie Couric’s last years on the program were considerably fluffy, but Meredith Vieira has brought a more serious approach back to the program. The fluffy segments in the later half-hours don’t turn me off because I don’t generally have time to watch a two or three (now four) hour news program in the morning. The producers target each half-hour to who is actually watching the broadcast. Businessmen and parents who want to get the news of the day generally tune in for the first 45 minutes of the broadcast. I know that if I am getting ready for class and turn on “Today,” I’ll see a tough interview with John McCain or Rudy Guilliani. While some cable news programs may be more hard-hitting at night, they don’t score the same interviews and I’ve never enjoyed watching news programs in the evening. After a long day at work or in the classroom, I want to kick back and be entertained. While the journalist in me feels as though I should be watching Anderson Cooper, I feel much more comfortable watching news in the morning. “Today” helps me wake up and think critically in the morning, which helps my performance throughout the day. I’ve watched the program since I was five-years-old and it actually prompted me to become interested news and led me to ask questions to my parents and teachers about what was being discussed. It should be noted that I will be interning with NBC Sports for six weeks this summer in Beijing, so there is a strong bias there. I have been brought up watching NBC News and will likely continue until I find a reason to change. The show is said to have a slight liberal bias, which is congruent with my political views. If the show became too liberal or too conservative, I’d likely switch in order to challenge my preconceived views.