Ann Curry has a big-picture approach to the sexual harassment reckoning shaking up the media, Hollywood and Washington: The current system isn't really working for women. And it's past time to change it.
"What we’ll need is systemic change," she says. "We are way overdue to ending this. I say 'enough.' Enough. And what we need to do is to balance the power."
The former Today show anchor and longtime TV journalist is as familiar as most women with workplace gender imbalances and harassment. She rose up through the ranks of NBC, which she joined in 1990, until she was forced to give a teary on-air goodbye to her coveted spot on the morning show in 2012 after replacing Meredith Vieira in 2011. Her co-anchor, Matt Lauer, received much of the blame for her ouster, which has been revisited after misconduct allegations against Lauer led to his firing in November. (Curry told CBS This Morning she was "not surprised by the allegations.")
"I have often, especially in traveling internationally reporting stories, sometimes I’m the only woman on the team. The cameraman is a man, the sound (person) is a man, producer is a man, then there’s me," she says, while praising those colleagues who've risked their lives alongside her in places like Syria and Somalia.
"Women are at least one-to-one as far as population in this country, in some years we are the overwhelming majority of humanity," she says. "And as a result, we have to ask, 'Why is it we’re so poorly represented in positions of power in America?' As long as this imbalance of power exists, there’s a vulnerability."
This backdrop has made her even more appreciative of the environment on her new PBS series, We'll Meet Again (Tuesday, 8 ET/PT, times may vary), a joint effort by three women: Curry; PBS programming chief Beth Hoppe; and executive producer Justine Kershaw.
"It has been really nice. It's a rare thing still today to be able to work in the company of women on all levels on a kind of collaborative" basis, she says.
The six-part series depicts major world events through the eyes of ordinary people who found themselves caught up in political and social upheaval, telling their personal stories of human connections, or missed connections. In each episode, Curry and her team talk to people who have been separated from those who helped them survive, emotionally and sometimes physically, during events including World War II, the Vietnam War and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Part history lesson, part research project, Again traces the friendship between Reiko Nagumo, a Japanese-American woman sent to an internment camp as a child, and her friend Mary Peters, who stood up for her amid anti-Japanese sentiment after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The women had been separated for 70 years, until Curry helped Nagumo sift through public records and genealogy reports to reconnect with Peters.
Not every story contains a happy reunion, but Curry says they're always inspiring.
"Some of these stories are just killer, they’re so lovely about what they say about the human spirit, and our capacity for good and our need for our connection," Curry says.
Whether we're in the midst of a major world event with the #MeToo movement, like those at the center of episodes of We'll Meet Again, Curry says remains to be seen.
"The women’s lib movement was a major event in history and what we are in now could be seen in history as a re-awakening of what is left undone. It remains to be seen whether it's just a movement when women were finally heard or whether we're in a moment when change actually happens."
"I believe it will be the beginning of change actually happening."