Is this the big assignment NBC News was referencing when it denied a report it would not renew Ann Curry‘s pricey contract? The news division said today Curry will report from Bangui in the Central African Republic for tonight’s NBC Nightly News, on NBCNews.com, on Curry’s YouTube channel, and on tomorrow’s Today. The announcement comes a couple days after a report surfaced that NBC News would not renew Curry’s $12 million contract; Curry segued into that contract after she exited as co-anchor of the network’s morning infotainment series, which has been trying to recover from the image problem it created ever since. At the start of this week, NBC News unveiled some of its plans to get Today back on its feet, including a new “Rise to Shine” tagline to help viewers forget its bungled dumping of Curry.
2014 is getting off to a busy start for NBC News. No sooner does the division announce its priority is getting Today back up on its feet with a new tagline “Rise to Shine” that will help viewers forget its bungled dumping of show co-anchor Ann Curry, than a report surfaces that NBC News will not renew Curry’s $12 million contract — the one she got when she was shoved off Today. The network has denied the Radar report, noting that Curry has been given an actual big assignment which, presumably, is what happens when you pay someone $12 mil a year.
Meanwhile, the division’s Sunday Beltway show Meet The Press got its fourth quarter numbers, and they’re the franchise’s worst in its history in the news demo. MTP also suffered its smallest fourth-quarter total-viewer crowd since ’91. This news forced the news division to have to insist to Politico that it has no plans to replace anchor David Gregory, because the site’s media columnist had suggested just that.
And MSNBC has had to refute a report in National Review that Rachel Maddow dictates the cable news network’s editorial direction and has a lot to say about personnel decisions. This after MSNBC anchors Martin Bashir and Alec Baldwin got the hook over separate incendiary comments, and a teary apology by Melissa Harris-Perry for an episode of her program in which she and a bunch of comics poked fun at little black grandson Kieran sitting on Mitt Romney’s knee in the family’s Christmas photo.
NBC News this morning named ITV News’ international editor Bill Neely as its new Chief Global Correspondent, based in London. The hire reunites Neely with NBC News president Deborah Turness, who was formerly editor of ITV News from ’04-13. You’ve already seen Neely appear with some regularity on NBC News, through the news division’s partnership with ITN. Neely, who has spent more than two decades with ITV, will cover major international news and events for all of NBC News’ broadcasts and digital platforms. Neely previously served as ITV News Washington Correspondent for six years, covering five of the last six presidential elections, as well as the Oklahoma City bombings, the Atlanta Olympics, and superstorm Sandy.
NBC News‘ Brit chief Deborah Turness has named the current director of online for ITV in the UK and former Sky News exec, Julian March to be her news operation’s senior VP of editorial and innovation. March will move to New York in early ’14. Reporting to Turness, March will be a key editorial leader at NBC News, overseeing all digital businesses, including NBCNews.com, as well as the news division’s editorial units. NBC News said this will allow for further integration of broadcast TV news and digital operations.
At ITV, March is credited with coming up with the strategy and delivery of the network’s entire online business. Prior to ITV, he spent 11 years at Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News, where he launched the Sky News app, and produced over 3,000 hours of live television, including coverage of major breaking news stories such as the 7/7 London bombings and the Indian Ocean tsunami.
UPDATE: NBC To Trot Out Second Pilot For ‘Dateline’ Skydiver Collision Special After ‘GMA’ Beats ‘Today’ Skydivers Edition
UPDATE, 2:35 PM: NBC will air its Dateline special, using the helmet-cam video of the skydivers who survived that mid-air collision 12,000 feet above Wisconsin last weekend, this Friday at 8 PM on a Dateline special called Miracle On The Sunset Dive. Sure enough, NBC News was saving that second plot — the one whose plane caught fire and broke into pieces, and who was not seen on Tuesday’s Today show — for the Dateline special. “For the first time, hear from the pilot whose plane lost both of its wings and plummeted to the ground,” NBC News emoted in this afternoon’s scheduling announcement.
PREVIOUS, 10:17 AM: Word that NBC News had paid “in excess” of $100,000 for exclusive rights to helmet-cam video of skydivers who’d miraculously survived a recent mid-air collision in Wisconsin had some media critics harrumphing mightily, accusing NBC News of “checkbook journalism” albeit on a Hollywood-cappuccino-money level — but that’s not the point. In fairness, the news did not offend some media-watchers’ moral sense — no doubt because they don’t have one, you’re thinking.
“Excited to join @Twitter as Head of News in January. Leaving @NBCNews at year’s end. Grateful to my beloved colleagues for 2+ great years,” NBC News’ Chief Digital Officer of Vivian Schiller tweeted today, ending weeks of reports she’d been tapped for the gig. That puts her start date after Twitter begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange, as soon as November 7.
It’s a new post for the social media behemoth and one in which she will work to further develop partnerships with old-school news-gathering outfits — like broadcast and cable TV news operations, newspapers, NPR, etc.
The San Francisco-based giant had been looking for someone who could be its liaison with news gathering operations. Schilller’s solid resume includes stints at The New York Times, NPR, CNN, NBCU, and Discovery, though she resigned from NPR last March after a couple of embarrassing incidents, including the release of a video showing a staffer nicking the GOP and the Tea Party. Website AllThingsD reported earlier this month she was a done deal, but nothing was official until today. She’d been put into her most recent position, at NBCU, by NBC News chief Steve Capus, who has since left; Deborah Turness took over in May.
U.S. Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Calif) wonders why a Time Warner Cable lobbyist is emailing Republicans in the House and Senate, telling them “next time you think about helping broadcasters” they should first read a Weekly Standard article taking NBC News to task for its weeklong look at the Affordable Care Act. “Could you please explain why this email was sent and what purpose it serves?” Waxman, the ranking member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, said this afternoon in a terse letter addressed to TWC CEO Glenn Fritt.
The Weekly Standard article to which the unnamed lobbyist linked was called “NBC Launches Week of Programming to ‘Help’ Obamacare Succeed.” The Weekly Standard appears to have looked askance at an announcement NBC News emailed around last week – we got a copy too – detailing plans for this week’s “Ready or Not, the New Healthcare Law” — a “multi-screen experience to help Americans get the most out of the Affordable Care Act.” NBC’s coverage included results from a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, conducted in conjunction with NBC News, that details public opinion and awareness about the ACA. And, NBC Nightly News aired an interview between NBC News’ Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Doctors, nurses, employers and patients all have a stake in how the Affordable Care Act will play out,” said Snyderman. “The sweeping federal law is confusing. We will clarify parts of the law, explain how states differ and tackle many of the challenges associated with it. We are committed to answering questions and serving as a guide as this legislation is implemented.”
In the midst of a stream of breaking news around the shootings today at the Navy Yard in Washington DC, NBC and CBS stumbled. At around 1 PM ET, both networks reported that the shooter of at least 11 people at the DC facility as Rollie Chance, a Navy officer. “NBC News I-Unit head RT @REspositoNBC: Shooter identified as a Rollie Chance #NavyYardShooting,” tweeted NBC News’ Chuck Todd just before 1 PM ET. CBS reported the shooter’s name soon afterwards too. The problem was both NBC and CBS were wrong and had to retract the information. “BREAKING. @johnmillercbs advises the initial reports identifying the suspected shooter as Rollie Chance are wrong,’ tweeted CBS producer Charlie Kaye just before 1 PM. “NBC News: we are now NOT reporting name of shooter; retracting that report. deleting those tweets,” tweeted Todd at 1:05 PM. Less than half and hour later, Todd added, “The confusion over the shooter name had to do with an I.D. card found near dead gunman; What led to bad initial reporting.” Todd didn’t stop there. “I know folks are relishing an opportunity to get out their hatred for media; I’m just trying to provide context for what we got wrong,” he added. At 2:46 PM, NBC News’ Pete Williams identified the shooter as civilian contractor Aaron Alexis based on reports from federal officials. The gunman was killed in a shootout with police today. Police officials did not confirm or deny that other shooters were involved. Shots first were reported at around 8:15 AM ET.
NBC News is launching its Peacock Productions international division in the UK and has named Steve Anderson its managing director. Starting next month, Anderson will oversee international TV production for NBC News’ longform production unit known for its specials, documentaries and reality series. (Most recently, Peacock Prods made news with Skywire Live With Nik Wallenda, its live special for Discovery Channel in which Wllenda crossed the Little Colorado River Gorge near Grand Canyon National Park.)
The crime reporter with nearly 4,000 Los Angeles Times bylines and countless radio and TV interviews to his name is headed to the small screen for good. LA Observed reports that Andrew Blankstein is leaving the paper for a gig at NBC News as an on-air reporter focusing on West Coast investigations.
While professional news organizations have long used amateur-produced video (remember Abraham Zapruder’s film of the JFK assassination?), NBC News today joins the ranks of news providers who are beginning to embrace it as a first resort instead of a last. The company today said that it bought user video service start-up Stringwire — mostly, it seems, to land its founder, Phil Groman. He’ll be Product Lead based at NBC News Digital Group’s San Francisco office. “For breaking news and stories that have a real-time visual component, Stringwire’s services provide the ability to recruit and direct contributors based on geographical location through Twitter, and to instantly access live footage,” NBC says in a release. “Aside from Groman’s use of Stringwire during Hurricane Sandy and the Kenyan elections, NBC News will be the first media organization to use the technology for live event coverage.” The organization apparently does not fear that the videos it receives might be staged, or served up to to advance a hidden agenda. Last week the BBC began to put warnings on all of the user-generated video it airs after a BBC Trust report found that it had rarely labeled amateur videos shown in its coverage of 2011′s Arab Spring. (Warnings often say that the video can’t be independently verified but that it’s believed to be accurate.) NBC News Chief Digital Officer Vivian Schiller says that Stringwire offers “immediate value to our on-air and …
Al Jazeera America finally announced an anchor for its evening newscast, which is scheduled to launch in just two weeks. Former NBC News anchor John Seigenthaler will anchor the flagship show when the network launches on August 20, it announced this morning. Seigenthaler, who spent more than 11 years at NBC News, anchored the weekend edition of its Nightly News for about nine of them. Seigenthaler was reported to have been one of the victims of NBCU 2.0 slash-and-burn policy announced in fall of ’06 by then NBCUniversal television group CEO Jeff Zucker – now running things over at CNN. That plan involved the cutting of about 700 jobs. In April of ’07 Seigenthaler announced on the air that it was his last time at the anchor desk and he was out. Since ’08, Seigenthaler’s been the CEO of Seigenthaler Public Relations-NY.
AJA has been unveiling its staff and operations in dribs and drabs in the days walking up to its scheduled launch. In recent days, it has announced former CNN anchor Joie Chen will host a nightly news magazine show, staffing for its documentary and sports units, and the opening of 12 domestic bureaus, among other things.
NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd went on MSNBC’s Morning Joe this morning to whine about NBC Entertainment’s plans for a Hillary Clinton miniseries. “A total nightmare” for the news division, Todd called it. What’s knotting his knickers is a recent threat by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus to yank primary debates from NBC after NBC Entertainment announced it had bought a Hillary Clinton miniseries. “There’s nothing we can do about it and we’re going to only own the negative,” Todd complained of the Clinton mini, announced at the just-wrapped Summer TV Press Tour 2013. “People are going to see the peacock, and they see NBC,” he said of the project, which NBC Entertainment chief Robert Greenblatt said he hoped to broadcast before Clinton might declare a presidential run.
Here may be a good place to mention NBC News signed Chelsea Clinton to a short-term contract as a “special correspondent” in the fall of 2011 and renewed in ’12.
NBC News just announced that long time anchor and correspondent John Palmer has passed following a brief illness. In his 40-year career, which ended with his retirement in 2002, he was a familiar presence in the network’s coverage of national and international affairs. He covered the administrations of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan as NBC‘s White House correspondent and in 1980 delivered the first reports of the aborted rescue of U.S. hostages in Iran. He also reported the 1986 explosion of the Challenger Space Shuttle. Palmer was news anchor on The Today Show from 1982 to 1989, a period when it became the top-rated morning show. NBC called Palmer “a brilliant, brave, and tireless journalist who guided viewers through many of the most significant events of the past half-century – from the early days of the civil rights movement through the tragedy of 9/11. ”
Here’s the network’s statement:
Former NBC News and ABC News correspondent Herb Kaplow died Saturday in Arlington, VA. He was 86. The longtime radio and TV newsman started his journalism career in 1951 at NBC News and moved to ABC News in Washington in 1972. He covered 10 presidential campaigns, 19 presidential conventions and traveled with Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton, according to a memo today from ABC News president Ben Sherwood. Kaplow also reported on the civil rights movement including the Brown v Board of Education ruling in 1954 that led to school desegregation. The New York Times‘ obituary noted that Kaplow also covered the Cuban revolution that culminated in Fidel Castro’s victory in 1959, and he was the first American reporter to interview Castro after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. Kaplow retired in 1994.
NBC News’ Peacock Productions will produce a weekly crime investigation series for Discovery’s Investigation Discovery network. MSNBC host/NBC News correspondent Tamron Hall will host Deadline: Crime With Tamron Hall, debuting September 1. Investigation Discovery noted that Hall’s older sister was a murder victim in a case that is still officially unsolved. In each one-hour episode, Hall will be joined by other correspondents to explore crimes. Among them: journalists Michelle Sigona and Angeline Hartmann and veteran America’s Most Wanted correspondent Tom Morris Jr. The new series also will feature appearances from ID regulars Aphrodite Jones (host of True Crime With Aphrodite Jones) and Keith Beauchamp (host of The Injustice Files). The first episode will explore the brutal murder of a mentally ill wife and mother of two, and update the story of Robert Chambers, the Preppie Killer.
Discovery’s announcement was made the same day ID held a Q&A session at the TCA Summer TV Press Tour for Surviving Evil, about victims of violent crimes who fought back and survived. Similarly, it’s hosted by Charisma Carpenter (Buffy The Vampire Slayer), who was held at gunpoint with friends at San Diego’s Torrey Pines State Beach in 1991 and survived; her attacker was sentenced to 56 years in prison. In addition to Deadline, Peacock Productions was also the production house behind Discovery’s recent Nick Wallenda walk across the Little Colorado River …
George Zimmerman is suing over an edited 911 police call from the night he gunned down Trayvon Martin. The case against NBC News was stayed pending the outcome of the criminal case. Now that’s out of the way, Zimmerman’s Philadelphia attorney James Beasley is ready to proceed, according to The Washington Post. “We’re going to start in earnest ASAP. We just have to get the stay lifted which is a ministerial act,” Beasley told the paper via e-mail. When asked how the not-guilty verdict affects the civil case against NBC News, Beasley responded, “This verdict of not guilty is just that, and shows that at least this jury didn’t believe that George was a racist, profiling, or anything that the press accused George of being. That probably doesn’t get you that much, but it’s simply time for us to start the case and hold accountable anyone who was irresponsible in their journalism.” The original 24-page complaint accused NBC of creating “this false and defamatory misimpression using the oldest form of yellow journalism: manipulating Zimmerman’s own words, splicing together disparate parts of the recording to create the illusion of statements that Zimmerman never actually made.”
Filed in Seminole County, the suit adds that “NBC News saw the death of Trayvon Martin not as a tragedy but as an opportunity to increase ratings, and so set about to create the myth that George Zimmerman was a racist and predatory villain.” NBC correspondent Ron Allen is named as a defendant, as are Lilia Rodriguez Luciano and Jeff Burnside; the latter two were fired after an internal investigation determined that the tape had been edited. NBC apologized to Zimmerman, but that was not enough. Here’s how NBC, in a March 27, 2012, broadcast of the Today show, manipulated the tape:
Here is what NBC edited:
Zimmerman: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”
But the full tape went like this:
Zimmerman: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.”
911 Police Dispatcher: “OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?”
Zimmerman: “He looks black.”
NBC News has hired high-profile former NYPD and LAPD topper Bill Bratton as an analyst. It’s part of a trend by news outlets to secure on-air talent with strong law enforcement backgrounds to spearhead coverage of high-profile stories such as the killings in the elementary school in Newtown, the movie theater in Aurora, and at the Boston Marathon. Bratton, the only person to have led four of the country’s largest police forces, was a frequent on-air contributor at various news operations during coverage of the marathon bombing. Bratton will help NBC News catch up to CBS News, which has been getting a lot of attention in this field since hiring John Miller in 2011. Miller has straddled journalism and law enforcement his entire career, beginning as a reporter before migrating to the NYPD (at the request of then-commissioner Bratton),and also working for the LAPD and FBI. On September 11, 2001 he sat by Peter Jennings at ABC News, where he was working at the time. Miller is credited with reporting ahead of others the magnitude of the death toll at Newton, and with waving CBS News off the erroneous report an arrest had been made in the Boston bombing, among other things.
Presumably Discovery Channel would like to continue to do business with Nik Wallenda, after his live Sunday high-wire walk garnered good numbers for the network — weekly ratings came out this morning and Wallenda’s actual walk, which Discovery reported clocked 13 million viewers, would be the week’s fourth-most-watched telecast behind two nights of NBA Finals on ABC and one night of The Voice on NBC. And, after the walk, Wallenda said he was looking forward to working again with NBC News’ Today B-team, Willie Geist and Natalie Morales. They’d hosted Discovery’s coverage of the walk, which was produced for Discovery by NBCUniversal’s Peacock Productions (Today got the Wallenda interview the next morning). Not wanting to do business with Wallenda is the city of New York, where Wallenda announced during Sunday’s post-walk blah, blah, blah that he’d like to do his next made-for-TV wire walk between the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building. NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told the local CBS station the city will not give Wallenda, who last year crossed Niagara Falls for ABC, permission to walk the 4,000 feet between the two iconic buildings. Discovery and Peacock Prods: you’ve got your work cut out for you.