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In Bryant Gumbel’s Performance Evaluations, Few Get High Marks

February 28, 1989

NEW YORK (AP) _ Bryant Gumbel grumbles about almost everybody he works with on NBC’s ″Today″ show in a confidential memo to the show’s producer, and says weatherman Willard Scott ″holds the show hostage″ with his ″bad taste.″

Gumbel, who never has been known for keeping his opinions to himself, also says film critic Gene Shalit’s reviews are ″often late and his interviews aren’t very good″ and that consumer reporter David Horowitz is ″a walking cliche,″ according to the memo reported Tuesday’s editions of New York Newsday.

In the memo, Gumbel complained that consumer reporter Betty Furness’ stories were often ″too local.″ He had some kind words for medical correspondent Art Ulene, though his theme week reports were ″boring″ to Gumbel. Music correspondent Rona Elliott reaped none but Gumbel’s praise.

Scott was the target of Gumbel’s strongest criticism.

″This guy is killing us and no one’s even trying to rein him in,″ Gumbel complained. He suggested ″nuking″ the assistant who supplies Scott with viewers’ birthdates. Scott spends part of the weather segment wishing happy birthdays to those who reach 100.

Scott ″holds the show hostage to his assortment of whims, wishes, birthdays and bad taste,″ Gumbel writes.

Gumbel was on vacation and couldn’t be reached for comment.

Scott declined to comment on the memo. Ulene said Gumbel is a smart guy but doesn’t understand the importance of, say, Cholesterol Week to viewers. Horowitz said he stands on his record.

Jane Pauley, Gumbel’s co-host on the top-rated morning show, escaped any comment in the memo, which was written last August when Gumbel was still in negotiations on his new, three-year, $7 million contract.

Gumbel also griped in the memo to executive producer Marty Ryan about Ryan’s alleged ″lack of guidance and a lack of willingness to stand on folks and make sure they do what’s necessary.″

Ryan told Newsday the memo was ″stolen″ out of a computer file and that ″Bryant and I always have candid exchanges about the show.″ On Tuesday, he declined to comment further.

NBC News President Michael G. Gartner also declined to comment, but sent an interoffice memo around last week supporting Ryan in the job.

Gartner will soon have to contend with more negative press. An article in the latest issue of Manhattan Inc. magazine, due to hit stands Thursday, criticizes Gartner’s management of the news division that he took over last July.

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