By Hal Boedeker
10:11 AM EDT, May 23, 2013
Al Roker says the "Today" team is concentrating on the future, not the program's past, and points with pride to the NBC show's coverage from Oklahoma of the tornado destruction.
"If you notice, we threw everything we had at it," Roker said Thursday at Universal Orlando, where "Today" was broadcasting. "It was important that we really cover the story. Maybe others didn't feel that way. And we did. We covered it from the air, from the ground."
"Today" has made news itself in the past year by falling to No. 2 in the ratings (behind ABC's "Good Morning America") and by replacing Ann Curry with Savannah Guthrie.
"It was tough for all of us personally," Roker said. "The problem is it plays out in public, and people decide to leak things. The fact is these are people's lives. It's painful. But you know what? We're all adults. We're getting paid very well to do our jobs. At some point, you've got to suck it up and say, 'OK, we're big boys and girls. Let's do our job and let's go.' "
"Today" certainly did the job in Oklahoma, and Roker said it was a team effort led by Matt Lauer and Guthrie. The program had planned a major weeklong trip, starting in Hawaii on Monday. But the program dropped a visit to Yellowstone on Tuesday to go to Oklahoma.
To continue the trip, Natalie Morales and Willie Geist paid scaled-back visits to Chicago on Wednesday and Orlando on Thursday. The show will conclude with a visit to the Jersey Shore on Friday.
"It's sort of a perfect way to end the week, because there we're talking about rebuilding and the aftermath of a terrible storm," Morales said.
She said the Oklahoma coverage reflected the strengths of "Today." "We were all about the big story and the breaking news," she said. "We're a hard-news network. We're always No. 1 when it comes to covering the big story."
Geist said it has been humbling to join a program with a 60-year TV tradition. He still appears on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" at 6 a.m. before moving over to "Today," where he has worked seven months.
Geist said he tunes out all the speculation about "Today." "We think we put on a good show every day," Geist said. "You just can’t worry about that stuff. You've got no control over what anyone will write about you. There's no point in worrying about it."
Morales described the "Today" team as a family. "We've taken our hits certainly. It's been a hard year for all of us," she said. "But through it all, we've gotten stronger, as families do in times of trouble. We all love each other very much. We just hope the show gets back to where it will be No. 1 again."
Roker, who had no sleep Wednesday because of travel, had little patience for examining past "Today" troubles.
"Looking back is an old person's game," he said. "We've got a great team. We're moving forward."
What about all the speculation about "Today"?
"Let the other people talk about stuff," Roker said. "They want to do it. God bless 'em. We don't have time to do that."
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