Sometimes, it's not what you do but how you do it.
On Tuesday, I did my normal survey of network morning shows. My favorite, Today, looked different. Where was Tamron Hall?
I had read the rumors that NBC had promised former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly a morning television show. Today is already at four hours each morning, each with a different feel: The first couple of hours with Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie; 9 a.m. with Tamron Hall and Al Roker; and 10 a.m. with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb. So that means, barring canceling the network's last daytime soap, something had to give.
No one on the show mentioned Hall or her absence; think about how they lead with Guthrie's maternity leave that's almost become a third anchor. That only served to confirm what might be on the horizon.
Something was about to happen.
Wednesday morning came, and still no Hall. Wednesday afternoon came and then word hit: Hall would be leaving NBC, effective Tuesday, Jan. 31.
My initial reaction? "That's a bad look, NBC."
Even after I learned more -- NBC offered to extend her almost-up contract with the network and she was told she would lose the 9 a.m. Today slot before she was about to go on air to anchor her show on MSNBC -- the thought persisted. Oh, and again: She was told that she would lose the 9 a.m. slot on Today's Take as she was about to go to work. For them. Come on, now.
Remember, sometimes it's not what you do but how you do it.
It comes down to optics. Think of the morning TV shows as storefronts. You showcase your best, from every platform. And if you're a good steward, you want it to reflect the people you're talking with each day.
Hall was great for that.
NBC offered her money to stay. Too bad it wasn't respect for the position she had worked hard to attain on Today and her other hosting duties on MSNBC and beyond.
The linchpin here seems to be the manner in which she was told. It's reminiscent of how Kelly Ripa found out that Michael Strahan was leaving Live. It's disrespectful, to say the least.
That leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth. This one not only tastes bad, it looks bad; I cannot write that enough. You are what people see. Today helped to inspire me to become a journalist, watching Bryant Gumbel slay interview subjects.
Kelly -- who infamously went on a tangent assuring people that Santa Claus was white, that the teen in McKinney manhandled by a police officer was "no saint" -- replaces more than a person.
She's a symbol replacing a symbol.
Hall, who was once a general assignment reporter in Dallas, was the first black woman co-anchor of Today.
I acknowledge how tricky this was for the network. They jumped at the chance to hire a Trump antagonist, for that's become her claim to fame, and had to make promises to do so. And now they're wishing Hall the best.
But displacing one to uplift the other reeks. Worst of all is that the show looks less like its viewers than it did at the beginning of the week.
The National Association of Black Journalists issued a statement that said in part that the shakeup "is being seen by industry professionals as whitewashing." Well. Call it like you see it, but acknowledge that.
Reports say that Hall's feelings were hurt by the way it was handled. She probably felt she had no choice, for there was no up for her after losing an hour that she gamely stepped into after Billy Bush was essentially fired for chuckling his way through some Trump comments. She and co-host Al Roker, who finally addressed her absence Thursday morning alongside the wonderful Sheinelle Jones, had just gotten word that their hour was the highest-rated in the 9 a.m. slot for seven weeks running.
A reward would seem to be the appropriate response to that.