NEW YORK — After 13 years of predawn "Today" wake-ups, co-host Jane Pauley confirmed to a national audience this morning that she is leaving the NBC show at year's end. She hugged her successor, Deborah Norville, and gave her an alarm clock.
Pauley's farewell announcement, in which she said she will most miss working with co-host Bryant Gumbel, was preceded by his comments in which he criticized "idle and often erroneous speculation" about the troubled, top-rated show.
Gumbel said the speculation had been "much to the detriment of all of us here."
Pauley had been reported to be unhappy at recent changes on the show, including the Sept. 5 arrival of Norville as its news anchor, succeeding John Palmer.
Referring to Pauley as "my buddy" and saying that "it goes without saying that I'm going to miss her," Gumbel said that she is leaving the show "sometime at the end of this year or January of next year."
Pauley, who turns 39 Tuesday, has two years remaining on an NBC contract reportedly paying her $1.2 million annually. She is going to co-anchor a prime-time news series next year, she said in an interview after the show.
In the interview, she confirmed what she had alluded to in the show, that she had in fact asked to leave it.
She said there were a number of changes that had been made that had worried her, and Norville's arrival and Palmer's departure to the earlier "NBC News at Sunrise" was only one of them. She said she also thought that NBC executives wanted her to leave.
She said she had "tough" talks with NBC News President Michael Gartner and NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol, who wears a second hat overseeing "Today."
During the show, she said that persuading NBC that it was time for a change of staff on "Today" was "the hardest thing I have ever done. It has taken two long months."
She took pains to play down reports she was at odds with either Gumbel or Norville, saying "it has hurt to see two of my friends, Bryant and Deborah, assigned roles in this that they did not play."