AP Television Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - With little fanfare, NBC appointed Savannah Guthrie on Friday as Matt Lauer's co-host for the "Today" show, one day after ousted Ann Curry's tearful exit.
Guthrie, a lawyer and former White House correspondent for NBC News, has been host of the morning show's third hour for the past year (the show currently stretches for four hours). After vacations next week, the new team officially debuts on July 9.
It's an understated introduction for someone taking one of the most important jobs in television news. "Today" is a cash cow and the jewel in NBC's crown, and has seen its longtime position of dominance threatened in recent months by ABC's "Good Morning America." Its troubles cost Curry her job.
Guthrie, who wasn't made available for interviews, teamed with Lauer on Friday and told viewers nothing about her promotion. It was announced by a press release a few hours later, the day before a summer holiday week, a time when news releases are usually buried instead of trumpeted.
NBC wanted her in place before the start of the Summer Olympics in London next month. "Today" will travel to the Olympians and the broadcasts are seen as a good opportunity for "Today" to regain some momentum after its challenge from ABC.
Guthrie, 40, will keep her role as NBC's chief legal analyst. She's been at NBC since 2007, joining from Court TV. She covered Sarah Palin's campaign in 2008 and was NBC's White House correspondent from 2008 to 2011. A graduate of Georgetown Law School, Guthrie worked in television for most of her career except for two years of practicing law in Washington. She worked in local television news in Tucson, Ariz., and Columbia, Mo., in the 1990s.
On the job Friday, Guthrie displayed the versatility necessary for someone in morning TV. She helped analyze the Supreme Court's health care decision during the first hour, then spread red jam on toast an hour later for a segment on Fourth of July party decorations.
NBC News President Steve Capus praised Guthrie's "undeniable range" in announcing the appointment.
"She has a one-of-a-kind combination of sharp wit and approachability, and our viewers value her journalistic skills and legal background just as much as her humor and charm," said Jim Bell, "Today" show executive producer.
The "Today" show team appeared noticeably more comfortable Friday than during Curry's last week of broadcasts. Guthrie joked with Lauer following a story about David Beckham being left off the British soccer team because at 37, he's considered too old.
"He's still young enough to be in those underwear ads, though," she said. "There's a silver lining."
"Thanks for that," Lauer replied.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)