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Curry, ‘Today’ Head to ‘Ends of the Earth’ for Sweeps

Nov 10, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Ann Curry will climb—and attempt to summit—scenic Mount Kilimanjaro as her contribution to the “Today” show’s second edition of its “Ends of the Earth” extravaganza, which will be the centerpiece of the NBC morning show the week of Nov. 17.
Where co-anchors Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira and weatherman Al Roker are going will be revealed a day at a time this week as the midpoint of the November sweeps ratings book passes.
The focus this year is water, which is increasingly precious and in short supply in many parts of the world.
The glaciers on the snow-draped peaks of Kilimanjaro are melting, said “Today” executive producer Jim Bell by phone as he headed for the airport to accompany Mr. Lauer to Alaska for the first broadcast network interview with Gov. Sarah Palin.
(The first post-election sit-down with Sen. John McCain’s lightning rod of a running mate will be seen at 10 p.m. ET tonight on Fox News Channel’s “On the Record With Greta Van Susteren.”)
Mr. Bell confessed he had rummaged in his basement Monday morning and come up with five left gloves, but whatever cold he encounters in the U.S.’ northernmost state in November will be a walk in the park compared to what will test Ms. Curry, who has become the “adventurer” of “Today,” on Kilimanjaro, the tallest free-standing mountain on the planet.
“The physical challenge of climbing that mountain seem perfect for her,” Mr. Bell said, adding that all the locations are extremely important and beautiful.
Acute mountain sickness keeps the majority of climbers from making it to the top of the 19,340-foot mountain, which Ms. Curry hopes to climb in eight days. Among her scheduled stops is at 18,340 feet to broadcast from inside Kilimanjaro’s highest volcano dome. Last year, Ms. Curry was slowed by weather in her attempts to reach the South Pole for a live broadcast.
As part of last year’s “Ends,” Mr. Lauer was at the top of the earth and Mr. Roker was at the equator, while freshman “Today” family member Ms. Vieira held down the studio.
“Last year, we were still up to our ears, even a year out, with presidential politics and the campaigns. We didn’t think it was wise at the time to leave the studio with all our anchors,” Mr. Bell said. “This year, we feel like for two days, we’re going to take a chance. I mean it could, if there’s a big breaking news story, it’s going to be tough, but these are the chances you have to take. We’ll certainly be covered and have people back in the studio just in case.
All four “Today” team members will be out of the studio on Monday and Tuesday. Some will begin filing back into the studio Wednesday. If Ms. Curry does summit Kilimanjaro, it isn’t expected to be until Friday.
This big-ticket event comes at a time when NBC News staffers are being urged to take buyouts, as part of NBC Universal’s efforts to cut another $500 million from its expenses.
“I think it’s, even in the current environment, more important than ever for your programming to stand out. Just because it’s a tough cycle doesn’t mean you start lowering your aim right now,” Mr. Bell said. “In fact, now’s the time to make sure that you remain special and vibrant, and this is a big series. The ‘Today’ show will continue to do big, special series that tackle important topics like this.”
As the executive producer of NBC News’s richest cash cow said: “It’s critical that the ‘Today’ show remains the ‘Today’ show.”

10 Comments

  1. as someone who summited Kili last year and was guided by a 13 yr veteran of Kili guiding Mr. Bell should be informed that Kili’s glaciers do not “melt” as it is too cold , they evaporate.

  2. I summited Kili in 2006 when I was 62 years old. Jeff you are exactly right, but what did you expect from someone in the “misinformation” business.

  3. Hakuna Matata! I just summited a month ago. Good Luck!

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