“Facebook Watch has given a 10-episode order to another series with a big-name female star set as the lead. The streaming platform has picked up Limetown, starring and executive produced by Jessica Biel. The series, based on the popular podcast of the same name, hails from Endeavor Content and Midnight Radio. Zack Akers and Skip Bronkie, creators of the Limetown podcast, will write the adaptation, which follows Lia Haddock (Biel), a journalist for American Public Radio (APR), as she unravels the mystery behind the disappearance of over 300 people at a neuroscience research facility in Tennessee. The first season of Limetown had over 10M downloads and went to #1 on the Apple Podcasts charts. Simon & Schuster is set to publish Limetown: The Prequel to the #1 Podcast, an original novel by Akers and Bronkie, with writer Cote Smith, on Nov. 13.” If a trees falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it . . . .
Netflix has released the first trailer for season 2 of Making A Murderer. Season 2 will be available to stream on October 19.
Between The Neighborhood (quit midway through episode 1), Happy Together (ditto) (both on CBS) and some junk show called Rel (I really tried to get through act 1 and couldn’t) on FOX, African-American centric multi-cam sitcoms have been a gigantic failure this season. Bring back Jerrod Carmichael, stat!
I’m already over Tiffany Haddish, but in the event you’re not, here’s more about her.
“The Walking Dead ratings just got chopped in half. Sunday’s Season 9 premiere of the hit AMC drama drew 6.1 million total viewers, with 3.2 million of those coming from the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic. That’s down 23 percent overall from the Season 8 finale and 27 percent in the key demo. Worse yet, the demo tally is less than half the 6.5 million that tuned in “live” to see the Season 8 premiere. The comparable episode last year hauled in 11.4 million total viewers, according to Nielsen’s Live + Same Day ratings. Unfortunately, the show’s October 2017 start was already down 35 percent versus its own predecessor. So, yeah, none of this is good.”
“Top 21st Century Fox television executives Peter Rice, Dana Walden, John Landgraf, and Gary E. Knell are officially headed to the Magic Kingdom. The Walt Disney Co. announced that Rice and Walden will come aboard to lead the conglomerate’s non-sports television operations. Rice has been named chairman, Walt Disney Television and co-chair, Disney Media Networks. Walden has been named chairman, Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment Landgraf will serve as Chairman of FX Networks and FX Productions. Knell will serve as Chairman of National Geographic Partners. ‘The strength of 21st Century Fox’s first-class management talent has always been a compelling part of this opportunity for us,’ said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company. ‘Upon completion of the acquisition, this new structure positions these proven leaders to help drive maximum value from a greatly enhanced portfolio of incredible brands and businesses.’”
“Discovery has reorganized its digital-video operations with the formation of the Digital Studios Group, a newly expanded hub for digital and social-video content creation spanning all the company’s brands. Leading the group is Vikki Neil, a former Scripps Networks Interactive exec, who has been promoted executive VP and general manager of the Discovery Digital Studios Group. Neil will continue to report to Kathleen Finch, Discovery’s chief lifestyle brands officer. Previously, Neil was senior VP and GM of Scripps Lifestyle Studios, the digital division of Scripps Networks Interactive (which is now part of Discovery after it closed the SNI acquisition earlier this year). Discovery’s Digital Studios Group will serve as a “one-stop shop” for creative and branded content for Discovery sites and social channels, working with the company’s TV Everywhere and direct-to-consumer businesses, led by former Amazon exec Peter Faricy.
“Netflix is in final negotiations to purchase Albuquerque, New Mexico-based studio, ABQ Studios, located in the city’s Mesa Del Sol community. Upon the deal’s completion, the company plans to bring $1 billion dollars in production to New Mexico over the next 10 years and create up to 1,000 production jobs a year. This is Netflix’s first purchase of a production studio complex. Netflix will produce film and television series in the new facility and at locations around the state, including irreverent apocalypse dramedy Daybreak, supernatural drama Chambers and epic, suspenseful drama Messiah. Chambers and Messiah are currently being produced in the Albuquerque area; both productions have provided jobs for over 700 New Mexican crew members. Previous Netflix productions in New Mexico include the Godless, The Ridiculous Six and Longmire.”
“Tyler Dooley, Meghan's nephew, is joining a cast of English royals and aristocrats who will come together for one summer in the English countryside to live like the monarchs and super elite all while cameras are rolling. Tyler, who is the only cast member from America, is the son of Meghan's former step-brother, Thomas Markle Jr. He was one of the few members on Meghan's father's side of the family who didn't badmouth the Duchess ahead of the royal wedding in an attempt to cash in on their connection. Instead, Tyler found a more creative way to cash in: legal cannabis. Living in Oregon, Meghan's industrious nephew opened his own cannabis business called Royally Grown. Tyler created a marijuana strain specifically in honor of his aunt called "Meghan Sparkle," which Tyler reportedly touted with the slogan, "for a Royal wedding, a royal weed." Tyler runs the business with his mother, Tracy Dooley, who is Thomas Jr.'s ex-wife.”
From The Hollywood Reporter: “Emmy winner Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond) is returning to CBS.
“The network has handed out a series commitment to the multicamera comedy Carol's Second Act, in which Heaton would star and executive produce.
“The project revolves around Carol Chambers (Heaton), who, after raising her two children and retiring from teaching, embarks on a unique second act: She's going to become a doctor.
“Trophy Wife creators Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins will pen the script and exec produce the comedy alongside Heaton and David Hunt's FourBoys Entertainment banner's Adam Griffin and Rebecca Stay. Aaron Kaplan and Dana Honor of Kapital Entertainment will also exec produce.
“The project, which despite the massive penalty attached will still need a formal series order before it makes it to air, stems from an August pod deal Heaton and Hunt's FourBoys signed with producers CBS Television Studios, which is where Kapital is also housed.
“Carol's Second Act brings Heaton back to CBS after she won three Emmys for Everybody Loves Raymond. The series marks her follow-up role to ABC's The Middle, which wrapped its run last season.”
Per EW, “‘John makes me feel so special,” Debra (Connie Britton) says in the official trailer for Bravo’s Dirty John. But she’ll eventually realize there’s much more to him than meets the eye.
“Bravo’s upcoming limited-series adaptation of Christopher Goffard’s breakout 2017 podcast of the same name revisits the real-life courtship of lonely Debra and mysterious John (Eric Bana), a romance which begins online before hurtling toward a shocking, tragic ending. With more than 25 million downloads, the podcast emerged as a bonafide phenomenon. But the show will present the story in a whole new way, beginning with its two leads.
“‘Connie is the actress that you think of when you want to tap into the headspace of intelligent women on screen,’ series creator Alexandra Cunningham told EW. ‘[John] goes to church with [Debra], he loves that she’s a mom…. I want to show what that’s like — when John, in the body of Eric Bana, turns his eye upon you and is like, “You’re a goddess.”’
“Here’s the full synopsis of the show, which runs for eight episodes: ‘Debra Newell has a seemingly perfect life: she’s successful, beautiful and lives in one of California’s most desirable coastal cities, Newport Beach. The only thing missing is love. So when she finally meets charming and handsome doctor John Meehan, she’s quickly swept into a whirlwind romance, much to the dismay of her daughters Terra (Julia Garner) and Veronica (Juno Temple). Their fast-tracked relationship creates tension between Debra and the girls, leaving them no choice but to investigate the stranger who has swept their mother off her feet. And with a fraught family history, the backstory of Debra and her mother Arlane (Jean Smart) provides insight into why she may have been so vulnerable to John in the first place. As Debra gets drawn deeper into his lies and sinister game of psychological manipulation, it results in horrific consequences for an entire family.’
“Dirty John has already been renewed for a second season, but the show will restart with a new story and cast of characters. You can watch the trailer for season 1 above. Dirty John premieres Nov. 25 at 10 p.m. ET.”
Still don’t really know how you do a 2nd season after having listened to the podcast, but ok.
Per TheWrap, “TNT has given a straight-to-series order to a new sci-fi series from Ridley Scott, the network announced on Monday.
“Raised by Wolves, which will serve as Scott’s television directorial debut, centers on two androids tasked with raising human children on a mysterious virgin planet. As the burgeoning colony of humans threatens to be torn apart by religious differences the androids learn that controlling the beliefs of humans is a treacherous and difficult task.
“Prisoners scribe Aaron Guzikowski will write and serve as showrunner on the series.
“‘Ridley Scott’s movies have always been a part of my life and a huge inspiration in my work,’ Guzikowski said in a statement. ‘So getting the opportunity to work with him and TNT on a story that is so near and dear to my heart is truly a dream come true.’
“The series is produced by Scott’s Scott Free Productions banner in association with Turner’s Studio T and Madhouse Entertainment. Scott and Guzikowski will executive produce alongside David W. Zucker and Jordan Sheehan of Scott Free, and Adam Kolbrenner and Robyn Meisinger of Madhouse.
“‘I’m always searching for new frontiers in the sci-fi genre and have found a true original in Raised by Wolves–a wholly distinct and imaginative world, full of characters struggling with existential questions: What makes us human? What constitutes a family? And what if we could start over again and erase the mess we’ve made of our planet? Would we survive? Would we do better?’ said Scott. ‘Given TNT’s impressive run of bold, quality programming, this feels like exactly the right home for this kind of ambitious television.’
“‘Ridley Scott is simply the best there is in the sci-fi genre,’ added Sarah Aubrey, executive vice president of original programming for TNT. ‘Besides directing some of the most important sci-fi films of all-time, Ridley has created iconic characters from Alien’s Ripley to Prometheus’ Elizabeth Shaw. We’re thrilled to have Ridley do the same for us as we look forward to his vision of Aaron’s complex and futuristic Mother. It’s incredibly rare to be able to make television that both challenges one’s intellect and also thrills the excited fangirl side–Raised by Wolves is that rare show that does both.’”
“The network is teaming with Nick Cannon and The Talking Dead executive producer Michael Davies for a weekly topical late-night series. The untitled project, which is in development, would be hosted by Cannon and cover pop culture and feature high-profile celebrity interviews, music performances and stand-up comics. Cannon and his longtime manager, Michael Goldman of NCredible Entertainment, will also exec produce the potential late-night series alongside Davies' Embassy Row banner.
“The late-night talker is part of a larger development deal Cannon has signed with Fox, the soon-to-be-independent broadcast network. As an extension of the potential weekly late-night show, Cannon and Davies will join Fox's digital team to curate online segments to be distributed via social media. The development pact extends Cannon's relationship with Fox as he next hosts and co-exec produces the network's upcoming celebrity competition series The Masked Singer. The former America's Got Talent host recently served in the same capacity on The Teen Choice Awards, which aired in August on Fox.
“The deal arrives as Fox is poised to lose 20th Century Fox TV's roster of top producers as the studio is set to become a Disney property once that multi-billion-dollar deal closes. The so-called New Fox is focusing on broader-skewing programming, including sports (the NFL, wrestling), procedurals and multicamera comedies.
“Fox has tried its hand at a late-night show several times, including 1993's The Chevy Chase Show, 1986's The Late Show (with Joan Rivers and Arsenio Hall) and 2009's The Wanda Sykes Show. None lasted more than two seasons.
“Cannon has hosted MTV's Wild 'N Out as well as multiple other awards shows.”
From Vulture: “‘Thanks for your patience,’ the familiar baritone says on the other end of the phone line. But Lester Holt didn’t really need to apologize: The NBC Nightly News anchor was less than an hour late for our interview, and he had a good excuse for being tardy. ‘We had another event in the Rose Garden we had to cover,’ he explains, referring to President Trump’s last-minute trade deal announcement.
“Like all of his TV news colleagues, Holt is perpetually busy these days, scrambling to cover the chaos that is Washington, D.C. while trying to make sense of it all for viewers. He has certainly thrived in these turbulent times, with his May 2017 interview with Trump — soon after the president fired ex-FBI Director James Comey — widely seen as a watershed moment in the investigation of the Trump campaign’s dealings with Russia. But Holt is also hell-bent on not letting Trump’s presidency eclipse other news: He has left his New York City homebase more than a dozen times the past year to cover stories unrelated to the White House, and he’s hitting the road again this week, with plans to anchor Nightly News from five states in five days as part of his third “Across America” reporting tour. Before he packed his bags, Vulture caught up with Holt for a wide-ranging discussion on a slew of topics, including covering Trump, the never-ending battle for ratings supremacy, and why, three years after taking over Nightly News, he has no plans to give up his Dateline gig:
Every day now seems to bring an avalanche of news developments. Are you exhausted?
Exhausted probably isn’t the word. It’s just a different pace … a quicker pace. In many ways, it plays to what I’ve always loved about this business: Starting the day with a blank slate, something happens, and you have to react to it. But it definitely seems busier than it ever has been.
And yet with everything going on right now, you’re taking the time to do your “Across America” road trip. Do you have to think twice about doing this sort of thing now?
Well, I think it’s important to get into different communities around the country and see issues that may or may not relate directly to the national politics that we cover. Things that are affecting one community, chances are they’re affecting other communities. On this Across America tour, for example, we’ll be going to Florida. They’re dealing with this horrible red tide issue right now that threatens to move to other states, so it’s a chance for me to get on the ground there and put more attention on it. We’ll surely get into immigration when we’re in San Diego.
But it’s more than fostering a political discussion. We talk about how divided this country is, but I don’t believe most people get up every morning and want to talk about politics. They want to talk about the cost of school and paying off their student loan, getting a job, technology, protecting their identity, all this other myriad of things. I want to make sure that we’re a newscast that reflects the things that are affecting people directly.
Do you think the media are covering Trump too much? Some critics argue the focus on scandals means other issues go unexplored. But I also think there’s a case to be made that Trump is such a crisis for democracy, there should actually be more focus on the White House.
There’s no question we had to adapt to the style of this administration. But what we’ve done is made sure we’re fulfilling our role as a port, as I call it. It’s a stormy sea out there. Every day you’re getting battered this way and that way. [Nightly News] is a place that people can pull into port every night for a half hour. We know we have to tell you about the big political stories, and we certainly do that, but we’ve got to make sure this newscast reflects those other things that are affecting people’s lives. And very often, it’s not whatever the president tweeted that day.
Even some TV anchors who pride themselves on being non-partisan — like Jake Tapper on CNN — are becoming less shy about expressing their frustration with the president. That’s not something you or your counterparts at ABC or CBS do. Is it frustrating? You are a citizen, so you must have opinions.
Well, I’m not a robot. And hopefully we deliver the news in a way that acknowledges what is unusual, because that’s one of the definitions of the news. But my feeling is there are plenty of places where you can get those robust discussions, those points of view, the arguing. Nightly News has to be that port in the storm.
When I do these stories, I always try to put myself in your living room, your kitchen. I want to make sure people can get it as straight as possible: Here’s the information, here’s what we know, here’s what we don’t know, and here’s the things that are unusual or different. It really allows the audience to become critical thinkers.
I get that. But there is precedent for network anchors breaking out of that straight-shooter mentality. Walter Cronkite did it with his 1968 commentary on Vietnam. Edward R. Murrow took on Joe McCarthy. We now have a president who talks about you and your colleagues as “enemies of the people.” How can that not have an effect on how you do your job? Why not speak more forcefully?
It’s not fun. Nobody likes to hear that. But I’ve learned to let it roll off my back because I believe that people know this broadcast — its 70-year legacy of integrity, excellence, and trust it has built with viewers — and I refuse to believe that can be tweeted or insulted away with a few remarks. Listen, I don’t like it. I don’t think it’s helpful. But we just focus on what we have to do. If we’re going to let things like that bother us, then we shouldn’t be doing what we do. I think the only thing that I’ve publicly reacted to was the “enemy of the people” remark. That crossed a line for me, because that kind of language could have an effect on the safety and well-being of my colleagues. That was the only thing that caused me grave concern.
The thing I like to remind younger journalists about is, this was never really a popularity contest. It’s a popularity contest in the fact that we’re rated, and that’s part of our world. But we didn’t get into journalism to be liked. I don’t do this to be liked. I do it to be respected.
During your now-famous interview with President Trump, he admitted the real reason he fired James Comey. That came about two years after you officially took over Nightly News. Was it a turning point?
I don’t know if it was a turning point or not. Every journalist I know, we want to do work that makes an impact and that hopefully people will talk about. There was no special sauce, there was no magic in that interview, other than the president had fired Comey as FBI director. I was the first reporter to sit down with him in the intervening time, and there were no “gotcha” questions. I asked what I asked, and he owned it. He owned that this was his decision and went on to defend it.
After the fact, of course, you start to realize the potential importance of what was said. There’s been no victory lap. I look up at the TV from time to time and I see that clip playing. I get only the satisfaction of knowing that as a reporter, I’ve done work that has had impact. But it’s certainly one I’m going to remember. When people ask me the most significant or interesting interviews I’ve done over my career, as of right now that’s number one.
You said the president owned it, but he more recently, he’s tried to claim you and NBC “fudged” his remarks.
That’s one I just won’t dignify. [Laughs.] The interview’s been out there for what, 16, 17 months? I’ll just leave it at that.
Do you think you will get the chance to interview Trump again?
I have certainly tried. I have reached out to the White House to schedule interviews with him on various topics. So far, they have not agreed.
Is this White House any different in terms of getting access to the president? Typically, administrations will rotate interviews with the networks among all the anchors.
In many ways, this White House has been very accessible, but not always through the traditional routes. It’s not necessarily a lot of sit-down interviews. I’ll be honest, I don’t have a fair point of comparison because I have not been a White House correspondent, and was not in this job for much of the Obama administration. But what we’re not probably getting as much is the long exchanges with the president, to be able to challenge him and to really drill down on his thoughts on some issues. A lot of the access has been during signing ceremonies, hosting dignitaries from other countries, and the cameras get him for a few minutes.
Let’s talk about ratings. You’re clearly the leader in the demo that makes money for NBC News, adults between the ages of 25 to 54, but ABC has a few more overall viewers. Both networks really, really make a big deal out of the numbers. Does it really matter?
Let me start by saying that I’m a competitive person. I want to win everywhere, so I would love to win in every metric. The one that counts — the one that turns the lights on around here — is the one that we’re very successful in, so I take great joy in that. But in terms of chasing the ratings, whenever we’ve been challenged, my message to the team is, “Stay in what we do.”
What we do, we do very well. I always try to keep the focus on making sure that the broadcast is in the exact place where we want to be, and that place is in breaking news. We have exclusive reports. The thing that’s going to separate us from any other broadcast out there. We take the broadcast on the road. We get exclusive interviews. We break exclusive stories.
I don’t doubt Nightly is far more hard news-oriented than ABC. But isn’t there still a decent amount of filler? It seems as if, in an attempt to gain a ratings edge, all three network newscasts spend too much time on softer segments. You’ve got less than 20 minutes after commercials, and some of it seems wasted.
I have to take umbrage with [what] you said about filler. Nothing we do on that newscast I would consider filler. What we do try to achieve every day is a sense of balance of the day. We’ve had tremendous success with what we call our “closers,” the stories that run at the end of the newscast. People stop me on a weekly basis and tell me, “I love those stories you do at the end. Sometimes they make me cry or they make me laugh.” We think it’s very important that people get a balance: You hear about this divided America, but let us take two minutes and introduce you to a person who has taken on some huge cause as an individual. Let us profile this soldier, or this nurse, or this police officer who’s doing something far beyond. Those stories, believe it or not, often get more attention than what we have as our lead story. Because we’re in the times we are, people need a place where they can get a touchstone, something that will say, Hey, it’s okay. We’re still great people in this country.
I get there’s a strong case for stories that reveal more about America than its leadership. But you, and especially ABC, make time for cute cat videos and storm footage that’s just there because it’s visually exciting. Is playing into Twitter trends or viral videos something you need to do?
We don’t want to be a broadcast that is somehow separated from society. If half the country’s going to work and remarking, “Did you see this? Did you see that?” we can’t pretend we’re not acknowledging that. It may not be the earth-shattering story of the day, but it’s part of the balance of a broadcast. That doesn’t become our entrée. It’s just the parsley, if you will, on the plate. There’s a balance with everything we do because it’s a precious 30 minutes, and as you point out, when you take away commercials it’s a pretty small hole we have to fill with news.
It’s a very small news hole and it keeps shrinking. Back in the 1990s, the dream of network news divisions was that one day they’d be able to do an hour-long nightly newscast. With networks doing so much content digitally, have you ever thought of doing an extra half-hour online? Or maybe do an extended show for MSNBC?
I’ve heard that discussion over the years. I’ll be honest, it hasn’t really come up in a big way since I’ve been doing the broadcast. We do occasionally do hour-long broadcasts after an exceptionally busy news story, like after a big event or an election. For many reasons it hasn’t happened, but I would welcome it. Obviously, the biggest challenge is how to tell our day in a half-hour format. We happen to think we do it very well, but there’s not a newsperson I know that’s not going to say, “More time is better.”
I’d like to talk about how you got where you are. Many past anchors came up the ranks as Washington correspondents, foreign correspondents, or maybe a combination of both. But you and your current peers don’t have the same background. You spent 20 years in local TV, then did a stint at MSNBC and, of course, Dateline NBC. Does that experience make you a different kind of network news anchor? Are you less the product of a certain kind of bubble?
I never really quite looked at it that way. I started my first network job at MSNBC in 2000. It was the beginning of this incredible five-year period of news — the 2000 election that turned into the recount, 9/11, and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq — so I was certainly exposed in a vital part of the coverage. And when I came over to the [broadcast] network side, in addition to anchoring the weekend broadcasts, I traveled all over the world: Afghanistan, Israel, Japan for the tsunami. You name it, I was there. It’s been a rich history of reporting experience.
When I talk to young people getting in this business and they say, “I want to be an anchor,” I say, “No, you want to be a reporter,” because that’s what we are at heart. All that experience in the field, whether it was local news or network, makes me a better anchor. I still have that itch whenever a big story happens to get out of here. I’m like, “When’s the next plane? Can we get on the air if we leave right now from there?” I’m a person of immense curiosity. I’m lucky to be in a place where we have the resources to scratch my itch to get out the door and cover news, wherever it may happen.
I was just wondering if not doing a stint overseas or not having been part of the D.C. beat makes you approach your role differently. Do you think it influences how you think and act? You don’t have that “voice of God” feeling so common for anchors.
Yeah, I think possibly so. I hope I don’t bring a lot of ego to this job. I am naturally curious. I like intelligent, informed debate and conversation. I love the fact that I can do a newscast that hopefully gets people talking. I suppose not coming from a Washington background perhaps broadens my palate of experience that I can bring to the table.
You’re right, certainly that was the path for a lot of network anchors. But I don’t use the term “voice of God.” I know you’re half-joking, but a lot of people still have that perception. I don’t want people to think that because I’m in this job, I’m somehow this authority on everything. In fact, sometimes in this job, you have to be equally ignorant about everything. My thing every night is I want to sit at the dinner table with people. I want to ask the questions that they’re asking.
Is that one reason you’ve stayed on as Dateline host?
It was raised, whether I wanted to continue to do it. I immediately said, “Why wouldn’t I?” On a purely practical level, it exposes me to an audience that is in many ways different than the Nightly News audience. It also happens to be one of the best group of storytellers that I know. While a lot of the work is true crime, a lot of the things I’ve done on that program are certainly not: criminal justice reform, asthma in low-income housing areas, crime in Chicago. We’ve done a lot of hard-hitting stories. It’s not something I was eager to give up. I mean, it’s part of an already heavy workload, but when it was raised, I was like, “No, I’m good. I love Dateline.”
When I was a reporter based in New York in the late 1990s, I covered the TV news beat. And a few times, I remember going to small gatherings where Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather all hung out together. Do you socialize with your rivals?
Last time I saw the two of them, actually, was last week. There was an off-the-record meeting with the Iranian president, who was in town for [the United Nations General Assembly]. So we see each other, talk about the life of being network anchormen. I have a lot of respect for both the guys. We don’t pal around. I think the one time we did was by accident, and there’s probably a picture of it somewhere. We were all coming back from a hurricane and we ended up on the same airplane — not only on the same airplane, but sitting virtually next to each other. We posed for some pictures and had a lot of fun with that. We haven’t gone out, but you say that and I’m thinking, That might not be a bad idea. I think you planted something!
You are also the first African-American to solo anchor the news. Katie Couric recently talked about how sexism was a part of her life at CBS. I’m curious about how your background informs the job you do, and if racism has ever had an impact on your career.
I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a journalist, and I certainly understood racism was out there, but I never over-focused on it. Maybe I’m just kind of hard-headed. I knew I wanted to be a journalist, I pressed ahead, I looked for the opportunities, and I found mentors, which was hugely important in my upbringing as a journalist.
Who were your mentors?
Probably the most important, he’s now passed, was Jerry Nachman, who was a longtime New York newsman.
Ah, yes, he came up with “New York to the bone” at WCBS. And he loved talking to media reporters!
Yeah, he hired me as a 20-year-old kid in San Francisco at the CBS all-news radio station KCBS. He taught me the business and brought me to New York and put me on TV at the age of 22 at WCBS. And another woman you wouldn’t know, Denise Barclay. She was a public affairs director at KCRA in Sacramento. I knocked on the door there one day when I was 16 and I said, “Hey, can I get an intern job here? Can I volunteer to work for free?” She took me in as a 16-year-old kid and helped show me the ropes. She was critically important.
What do you think about the shape of newsrooms right now, particularly NBC News? Do you think there are enough women in positions of power?
I’ve been asked that question before: Are there enough women or minorities? I don’t know what the number is, and that’s the problem. That sounds flippant, but I don’t know what that number is. What I know is what I see in terms of the people I’m working with directly. I work with two women right now who are at the helm of this broadcast every day, so that’s what I see around me. I think it’s always important that your newsroom should look like the world you cover. It’s important that people can speak up, can bring something in like, “Hey, you may not understand this, but let me tell you about it from my perspective.” Those are incredibly important discussions. I can’t really give you a number that, if we had five more females or two more minorities, somehow this magic balance would be achieved. But it’s something we think about on a daily basis.
One of the reasons I asked that last question is because your boss, NBC News chief Andy Lack, has come under fire for how the company handled its investigation into Harvey Weinstein. Ronan Farrow was working on it at NBC News, but left in part because of disagreements with how to move forward with the story. Lack has disputed the idea he stood in the way of Farrow. What’s your take on what happened?
I’m not trying to avoid the question, but this is one of those areas where you stay in your lanes. In my particular lane, that story had not reached the broadcast level yet. When I say that, I mean it hadn’t come to Nightly Newsyet, and I didn’t have any knowledge of it, so I can only speak very generally. And generally, I would say the best practice in investigative journalism is always to take whatever time you need to get it right. Better to be last than to be first and get it wrong. That’s really all I can tell you. I know I would ask the same question of me too, and I wish I had more to tell you.
Right now, MSNBC is doing gangbuster ratings, particularly Rachel Maddow. But I don’t see Maddow on Nightly News much, or on the network during election coverage. Why isn’t there more crossover?
We want viewers to understand that we’re offering two different things. Nightly News focuses on the news of the day, what happened, what didn’t happen, what it means to you. Rachel’s broadcast is obviously very different. It’s Rachel’s point of view on the day’s news, and I don’t think it would necessarily be the kind of match she would want with us because of what she does every night. It’s two different offerings, apples and oranges.
One last thing: One of your sons is an anchor at WNBC, which is in the same building where you work. It has to be a cool to work so closely with him, right?
It’s been fun. This is a kid who used to follow me to work at 5:00 A.M. when I was doing Weekend Today and he was in high school. Then he pursued television and journalism in college, worked jobs in Florida and Chicago, and landed here in New York a couple of years ago. It’s a blast, not only to sit in my office and watch him do the 4 o’clock news here every day, but then to get on the elevator and there’s your kid standing there in front of you.”