(From Eric Jackson, TODAY Associate Producer)
First, before I get into my anchor Q&A with Ann Curry, I would like to thank her for taking the time to sit down with me not once, but twice, due to technical difficulties. You see, in preparation for this interview, I went out and bought this new tape recorder. I even did the cheesy "test, test, test, test" audio check before going to talk to Ann. Seriously--ask my cubicle neighbors. Well, little did I know that this tape recorder has this feature where, if the audio in the room is too low, it stops recording. And wouldn't you know it--the audio, at times, was too low. So I finish the interview, come back to write it up, and as I'm listening to it, panic sets in. I had practically nothing. I felt like I had just been Punk'd. I e-mail Ann and her assistant, Claire, right away, mortified beyond belief. Ann e-mails me right back and says that it's no problem, we'll do it again tomorrow, later explaining that early in her career, she had a similar problem. So, thank you again to Ann. What follows is our conversation....take two.
Q: First off, this is the third week of TODAY’s fourth hour. How's it going so far?
Ann: It seems to be going OK. It's feeling more and more comfortable every day. I hope so at least. I hope that process will continue, that it will continue to get better and better. I hope it's useful more than anything else.
Q: What sort of topics do you want to bring to that hour?
Ann: I want to show our viewers the world. That's my wish -- to let our viewers know what's going on in the world. We're talking a lot about how to improve their lives, friendships. These are important topics. We'll see how this progresses, but we're really trying to understand what women at this hour need. We're going to do our best to fulfill their needs.
Q: The fourth hour is just another thing on your already-full plate. Aside from TODAY, you do Dateline and sometimes fill in on Nightly News, to name just a few of your other responsibilities. How do you handle it? Is it overwhelming sometimes?
Ann: Sure it is. I was joking that sometimes I feel I need an intervention (laughs). You know, I'm not complaining, though. This is a great opportunity to be useful, and that's my wish. I want very much to not look back and think that I had not done enough. So for right now, I keep my priorities straight. I don't go out at night, except on Friday nights. I'm a school night girl, home for homework and dinner. And we have a rule at our table. No matter how late it is, we sit down together and eat. Sometimes dinner is cold. Sometimes it's not exactly as I would've wished in terms of the food. But that's not what matters. It's the conversation.
Q: Do your kids get the whole TV thing? Are they fazed by it?
Ann: I refuse to have them be fazed. From day one, I've made it clear to them that I have a job. There's no reason why my job should be considered any more important than anyone else's. I make a point not to point out billboards or advertisements. I think that some people who do this work can become very full of themselves very quickly, and I think that's not a smart thing to do, especially if you're a mother.
When they went to school for the first time, that's when they realized it because other kids said, 'Hey, your mom's on TV.' That lasted for one day because I made it very clear to them why fame doesn't matter. Because in the end, we're all forgotten. What is remembered, is what we've done. Because that lives on.
Q: What would you say is the proudest accomplishment of your career, so far?
Ann: I'm so busy thinking about what I have yet to do. I'm so focused on the greatest thing that I haven't done, that it's hard to say.
Q: You are well known for your passion for international reporting, especially in Darfur, and I know you have plans to go back there. What part of the story haven't you told, that you feel it's necessary to tell?
Ann: I have not told its happy ending, have I? Because it hasn't had one.
Q: Do you think it can have one?
Ann: Yes, it certainly can. It will. All atrocities, at some point, end. Unfortunately, for Darfur, this one's taken four years and the world has not responded. But it would be something, wouldn't it? To tell the story of the end of this great tragedy of human suffering? I have seen the faces of those traumatized, and many of them have told me, to my face, that they heard the killers call their families racial epithets right before they were killed. This is unacceptable. So what will the world do? I would love to tell the story of the end of genocide, of the end of all atrocities and crimes against humanity. I think I might be very old before that happens, but that would be the story I'd want to tell.
Q: You're a mother and wife. Is that in the back of your mind as you plan for dangerous trips (Darfur, Lebanon, etc)?
Ann: Before I go, as I'm planning it, I do think, 'OK, is this worth it? Is this important enough?' But when I launch, I don't think about it. When I'm there, I don't think about it. I'm pushing, pushing, pushing to do the best job I can. I switch into work mode. Usually, I don't really think about it again until I get back. Look, there is no way to make it OK for my kids. They pay a price. My husband is a 'Go, go, go, Ann, do it. This is your dream. Do it.' He's a great supporter. And if I were to die, there is no way to make that right, and I know that. But on the other hand, I would much rather die doing this reporting than to be on a plane, on my way to interview Paris Hilton or Britney Spears. I would much rather die covering something that mattered.
But I do worry that I've burdened my children with what I do -- burdened them with knowing about the pain of our world. But on the other hand, I think what I've learned about that is we spend a lot of time telling our kids what to do, but what we show our kids has tremendous -- maybe even more -- power than what we tell them. I learned this when my son's sixth grade teacher told me that, unbeknownst to me, he gave an oral report on Darfur with tears in his eyes. He didn't even ask me about Darfur; he researched it himself, because he wanted it to be his. He doesn't think it's acceptable that people are suffering. That moves me deeply, and makes me fear that I've burdened him too much. But, it also makes me proud, that he's getting what truly matters. What truly matters is who we are and what we stand for.
Q: If your son were to come to you one day and say, 'Mom, I'd really like to go to Darfur,' what would you say?
Ann: I would ask him, 'What good do you think that you would do? What are the chances that you will do this good? What are the risks? Have you weighed them?' And if all those are adequately answered, I would cheer him. I would be proud.
Q: Is there anything you haven't done yet, professionally, that you would like to do?
Ann: I want to interview Osama bin Laden. But I want, more than anything, to be useful to the American public in a way that helps them get through these times with as much knowledge and, therefore, power. That's what I want to do. And I want, when I'm done with this, to feel as though I've contributed to the greater good.
Q: Years from now, when this whole TV thing is over and done with, what will you be doing?
Ann: I will be an old woman digging ditches in Africa. I want to do something where I know the joy of contributing to the care of people who have suffered.
And lastly, to change gears completely, a little rapid fire of your favorites...
Q: Favorite day of the week?
Q: Time of day?
Ann: Saturday morning, around 8am. Taking a walk while the world is still quiet.
Ann: Fall. It's brisk, the clouds are beautiful, and the light is gorgeous.
Q: Music group?
Ann: Oh, it varies. Everything. I'm currently listening to the Stax cd's. It has a Memphis sound from the '50's and '60's. My kids also keep me informed. What's this song I have on my iPod? (looks at iPod)... Walkie talkie man by Steriogram.
Q: TV show?
Ann: I don't watch too much TV. Sometimes Jon Stewart. And my daughter and I like "Gilmore Girls."
Ann: Ian McKellen.
Ann: Cate Blanchett.
Ann: "The Once and Future King" by T.H. White.
All photos courtesy of Ann Curry.