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Meredith Vieira announces she’s leaving ‘Today;’ Ann Curry, Natalie Morales, Savannah Guthrie upped at #1 Morning Show

This morning on “Today” Meredith Vieira announced she is leaving NBC’s leading morning broadcast. Vieira, who will depart in June, says she hopes “to stay in the NBC family, that is my goal, it just won’t be sitting at the couch every day.”

The announcement of Ann Curry, who’s been with the show with 14 years, got a round of applause from the ‘Today’ crew. “I think this day is really Meredith’s,” said Curry. “I just want you to know you’ve been a gift to this broadcast. You have been generous, and you have been a great girlfriend.” Here is the announcement, which was delayed by about a week after last week’s news of the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

NBC News will be holding a press conference later this morning with more on the news. More details in the press release after the jump.

MEREDITH VIEIRA ANNOUNCES HER DEPARTURE FROM NBC NEWS’ “TODAY”

ANN CURRY IS NAMED CO-ANCHOR OF “TODAY”

NATALIE MORALES IS NAMED NEWS ANCHOR OF “TODAY”

NEW YORK – May 9, 2011 – - After nearly five successful years as co-anchor of NBC News’ “Today,” Meredith Vieira announced this morning that she will be leaving the program in June. Vieira will continue in a new role at NBC News, with an official announcement in the coming months.

It was also announced that Ann Curry has been named the new co-anchor of “Today.” A full transcript of the on-air announcement is available upon request.

Natalie Morales has been named news anchor, also announced this morning on “Today.” The new “Today” anchor team of Matt Lauer, Ann Curry, Al Roker and Natalie Morales will debut in June.

Additionally, Savannah Guthrie has been named a co-host of the third hour of “Today.” She will co-host the third hour alongside Al Roker and Natalie Morales, also beginning in June.

Statement from Steve Capus, NBC News President: “Meredith is a remarkable woman and broadcaster who in five short years has left an indelible imprint on morning television. While we will miss waking up with her each morning, we are working together on developing her next chapter at NBC News. As Meredith turns the page, we are so very fortunate to welcome Ann as co-anchor. I’ve known her since our early days together on ‘NBC News at Sunrise’ and it’s been a joy to watch her break news, break boundaries and evolve into one of America’s top journalists. She’s beloved by our viewers and our news division. We are confident the new anchor team will carry the ‘Today’ torch, and Matt, Ann, Al and Natalie will each further thrive in their roles. We are so lucky to have the strongest, deepest bench in the industry, and that has allowed us to grow from within. We have the luxury to bring such talent like Savannah up from DC to join the ‘Today’ team – she’ll be great in the 9 a.m. hour and everywhere else we can showcase her legal and political background. With the strength of ‘Today’s’ many valuable players both on air and behind the scenes, we will undoubtedly accomplish another smooth transition and continue to be who America turns to every morning.”

Statement from Jim Bell, “Today” Executive Producer: “Meredith has been a part of the family since day one, connecting not only to our viewers, but also to each and every member of ‘Today.’ Her transition into the role of co-anchor alongside Matt was as seamless as anyone in my position could have ever hoped for or imagined. With an innate grace and a rare combination of humor and humanity, she truly breaks the mold. We now head into ‘Today’s’ next chapter with a woman who can quite literally leap tall buildings in a single bound. Often reporting from different time zones and disaster scenes, Ann Curry is one of the hardest working women in television, and she couldn’t be more valuable as our newest co-anchor. With Matt, Ann, Al and now Natalie at the news desk, and Savannah in the third hour, ‘Today’ will most certainly remain America’s favorite morning program.”

Curry has served as “Today’s” news anchor for more than 14 years, since March 1997. She has also been the anchor of “Dateline NBC” since May 2005, and she regularly substitute anchors for “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.” Curry has covered the major news stories of the past decade-and-a-half including three presidential elections, the September 11 attacks, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Hurricane Katrina. She recently spent a week in Japan covering the destruction from the massive earthquake and tsunami. And just last week, in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, she travelled to Pakistan to report live on the developing situation on the ground in that country.

Curry has distinguished herself in global humanitarian reporting, frequently traveling to remote areas of the world to cover under-reported stories. She has travelled to Sudan five times since 2006 to report on the violence and ethnic cleansing taking place in Darfur and Chad. Curry has conducted numerous exclusive interviews with world leaders and dignitaries including three sit-downs with Dalai Lama, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s first-ever interview with an American news organization, and an interview with former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, just two months before her assassination in December 2007. Curry has traveled the world reporting from war-torn areas, and she was the first network news anchor to report on the refugee crisis caused by the genocide in Kosovo in 1999. As part of “Today’s” unprecedented Ends of the Earth series, Curry spent ten days in Antarctica and the South Pole in November 2007, and she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in November 2008 to shed light on the global effects of climate change.

Natalie Morales has been a member of the “Today” family for more than five years. She joined “Today” as a national correspondent in February 2006 and was named co-host of the third hour of “Today” in March 2008. Morales has also served as a national correspondent for all NBC News platforms including “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams,” Dateline NBC,” and MSNBC. Prior to joining “Today,” Morales was an anchor and correspondent at MSNBC from March 2002 to February 2006.

Morales has made her mark on “Today” with several major breaking news stories through the years, including the 2009 presidential inauguration, Hurricane Katrina, the southern California wildfires, and the Minneapolis bridge collapse. She recently live-translated and reported on the October 2010 Chilean miner rescue, and her coverage was watched worldwide. In August 2008, Morales had the exclusive, news-making interview with the infamous “Clark Rockefeller” sitting down with him from Suffolk County Jail in Boston. Morales was also an integral part of the network’s coverage of the 2010 and 2006 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Torino and the 2004 Summer Games in Athens.

Vieira joined “Today” in September 2006, and was immediately accepted into the ranks of America’s first television family. Since joining the program, Vieira has covered the biggest news stories of the past five years including the 2008 presidential election, the tragic shooting at Virginia Tech, the devastating earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, and most recently, the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. She sat down with some of the most notable newsmakers, including President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and First Lady Laura Bush.

During her tenure, Vieira conducted numerous exclusive news-making interviews. She spoke with former CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson in her first-ever live television interview after her identity was revealed, she sat down with author J.K. Rowling in her only television interview about her final Harry Potter volume, she spoke with chimp attack victim Charla Nash in her first interview after leaving the Cleveland Clinic, and she talked to former Gov. of Illinois Rod Blagojevich in his first interview after receiving the verdict that convicted him on one count of lying to the FBI.

Vieira has also told the extraordinary and emotional stories of David Goldman, the New Jersey man who fought a five-year custody battle to recover his son Sean from his ex-wife’s family in Brazil, Carolyn and Sean Savage, the Ohio couple implanted with the wrong embryo, and John Michael and Ellen Keyes, parents of Emily Keyes, the only victim in the Bailey, Colorado school shooting. Vieira’s memorable exclusive celebrity interviews include Janet Jackson, Barbara Streisand, Bette Midler, Susan Boyle and Madonna, to name a few.

Savannah Guthrie currently serves as NBC News White House correspondent as well as the co-host of “The Daily Rundown” on MSNBC. She contributes to all NBC News properties including “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams,” “Today” and MSNBC.

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