Posts Tagged ‘NBC’


Matt Lauer and a transparent industry

NBC News has said it has fired Matt Lauer, the longtime co-host of the Today Show. In an email to staff, Andrew Lack, NBC News’ chairman, said a complaint was received on Monday night, and that a review of that complaint led to the termination of his employment.

Lack added that NBC News management was saddened about the events, and aimed to be as transparent about the news as possible.

Today co-anchor Savannah Guthrie made the announcement as the Today Show went live in the Eastern Time Zone.

Matt Lauer, seen here in 2012, was fired from NBC News this week for allegations of sexual harassment. (Photo: David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons/CC)

The news of Lauer’s termination of employment comes a week after CBS fired Charlie Rose, the co-anchor of CBS This Morning, and that PBS terminated the distribution deal of his eponymous talk show.

While the subject can be difficult, it is necessary for journalists to be held to account. SPJ’s Code of Ethics encourages journalists and news organizations to be accountable and transparent. Producers at Today were right to make the announcement, and they handled it as they would other stories.

Indeed, as my colleague, Ethics Chair Committee Andrew Seaman, wrote last week, there is a need for journalists to be held accountable, and for journalists themselves to hold their newsrooms accountable. For the record, I also serve on the Ethics Committee.

Guthrie added that media organizations were going through a reckoning that is long overdue. Issues women in journalism have faced are limited to not just sexual harassment, but also issues of trolling and harassment on social networks, a debate that has reached no clear answer from social media companies.

NBC must keep its word to be open and transparent about this issue. Just because he is one of the most prominent journalists on the network does not excuse the behavior. Women enter journalism for the same reasons as men – to inform, engage and educate, and they should be able to do that in a workplace free from intimidation, bullying, or anything that impedes the ability to do just that.

The conversations about our industry are important ones to have, and companies must be transparent about it – whether the issue is sexual harassment allegations or whether its policies on trolling and the impact on the relationship journalists have with their audiences on social media – because transparency will benefit the public in the long run when it comes to trust in news organizations.

NBC can, and must be transparent, not just for its own sake, but for journalism’s. I hope they keep their word and do just that.

Editor’s note: This post was amended at 9:39am CT to amend a typo.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist in Minneapolis and a member of SPJ’s Ethics and FOI Committees. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed are that of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Can NBC Nightly News remain intact?

NBC's Lester Holt, on assignment in Afghanistan in 2012, was named anchor of NBC Nightly News earlier this week. (Image: The US Army/Flickr under CC)

NBC’s Lester Holt, on assignment in Afghanistan in 2012, was named anchor of NBC Nightly News earlier this week. (Image: The US Army/Flickr under CC)

It was announced earlier this week that Lester Holt would permanently take over as anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News, months after its former anchor, Brian Williams, was suspended by the network after exaggerating certain information about reporting in Iraq. Williams would join MSNBC to present breaking news and special reports, and will serve as a breaking news anchor for NBC when Holt is unavailable.

In a statement, NBC News chairman Andrew Lack said Holt was the perfect candidate.

“He’s an exceptional anchor who goes straight to the heart of every story and is always able to find its most direct connection to the everyday lives of our audience,” Lack said. “In many ways, television news stands at a crossroads, and Lester is the perfect person to meet the moment.”

Holt, in an interview with USA Today, said the program is likely to not undergo much changes, and knows there is a loyal audience in spite of digital changes. Holt noted in the piece that Lack may have referred to his adept use at social media and other digital tools.

“I’m keenly aware that we have a loyal audience for nightly news. I’m inheriting a successful broadcast,” Holt said. “I wouldn’t look to tune in for a major overhaul.”

As NBC Nightly News embarks on a new chapter, the ability for one of the network’s flagship news programs to regain the trust of viewers, but also NBC’s operations as a whole, especially in the digital world, is at stake. Holt may have his work cut out for him, but knows the goal in the long term, and appears to be ready to do just that, and ensure for those who put trust in NBC News, that the trust can continue.

Stay tuned, as we watch what happens unfold in the studios of 30 Rock, and what happens for NBC’s standing as a news organization, on air and online, and where it goes from here.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is a contributing blogger for Net Worked, and serves as Community Coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman also is Education Editor and a writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. Veeneman also contributes to The News Hub web site, and to Examiner.comYou can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s unless otherwise indicated, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

For NBC, it’s more than just about Brian Williams

For NBC News, there is more to answer than the issue surrounding its star anchor, Brian Williams. (Photo: David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

For NBC News, there is more to answer than the issue surrounding its star anchor, Brian Williams.
(Photo: David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

Brian Williams has not had an easy year. The anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News was suspended without pay in February after concerns were raised about an account he gave of reporting during the Iraq War, saying a helicopter he had been in was shot down by rocket fire.

Since that occasion, investigations have been taking place within NBC about his reporting and the accounts he gave of other events, and it has emerged that 11 instances have occurred where Williams fabricated the accounts of covering certain events.

According to a report on the subject in the Washington Post, these instances include not just the situation in Iraq, but also the coverage of Israeli military action against the group Hezbollah in 2006, and the reporting of events at Cairo’s Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring political movement in 2011.

The report, the New York Times adds, is not due to make the conclusions on whether Williams will return from his suspension in August.

As this investigation, and indeed the debate continues on whether Williams will return to the network, there are wider questions to be answered regarding NBC’s own journalism ethics, and in an age where information and news can be accessed beyond the network’s flagship broadcasts, whether it can still remain a source people can confide in for information about the important events of the day.

In the mid-20th century, Americans relied on radio, newspapers, and the early days of television to be informed about the events. Personalities like Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite, and later Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer became household names, with viewers placing their trust with them and their respective programs to give an honest, forthright account of events, whether they were big or small, or whether they took place in your own backyard or half a world away.

NBC executives at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York hope audiences can continue to trust them for news. (Photo: djdave217/Flickr under CC)

NBC executives at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York hope audiences can continue to trust them for news and information. (Photo: djdave217/Flickr under CC)

The question of trust in journalism has changed since then to include the internet and the multitudes of social media platforms, notably Facebook and Twitter, and as these mediums evolve, so too has the journalism. News organizations recognize the value the internet has in getting the message out there to millions of users. For the vast majority of Americans, no longer does the half hour evening news program become the big news attraction—it becomes, for the broadcast networks, merely an extension of a multi-platform 24 hour journalistic operation.

It is this idea that raises the million dollar question, for the actions taken by NBC are not just about whether Brian Williams retains his job and office at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York come August, but whether consumers can come back to the offerings full circle—broadcast, web and social, after the fact.

That is a question that cannot be solved by a managerial shakeup, an internal inquiry, nor a change in person presenting the program, but rather the consumers themselves, and whether they will vote with their remotes or their computers or mobile devices in favor or against a network trying to ensure its feet touch the ground.

Therefore, for NBC, there is more at stake than just what to do with Brian Williams. It is whether it can still maintain its relationship with its audience, and keep doing what they were supposed to be doing in the first place, doing honest, forthright journalism, for the many, and not the few, no matter the platform.

Stay tuned for the answer.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is a contributing blogger for Net Worked, and serves as Community Coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman also is Deputy Editor, Media Editor and a writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. Veeneman also blogs on social media and digital culture for the web site ChicagoNowYou can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s unless otherwise indicated, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

The debate on a Twitter edit tool

twitterlogo

Twitter may be releasing an edit tool – but the question is when? Photo via Wikimedia Commons (CC)

It has long been known that Twitter has become an essential social media platform for journalists, either through editorial or career purposes. Yet, there had been recent speculation on if the social network would introduce an edit tool to allow users to edit their tweets.

The most recent speculation came just before last Christmas. This report from The Next Web indicated that users would see an edit feature for a brief period, and would therefore allow these changes to be made. Facebook has a similar editing tool in place where users can edit posts once they are live.

It has been a tool that journalists have been wanting, prompting a discussion on the subject during the #wjchat Twitter chat, held Wednesday evenings at 8 ET/5 PT.

Sara Catania, the vice president for digital at NBC4 Southern California in Los Angeles, an NBC owned station, in a telephone interview for this blog, said it was long overdue, adding there was much excitement when Facebook introduced their tool.

I don’t think you’d find a journalist saying that an editing tool is a bad idea,” Catania said. “There was much celebration when Facebook introduced their tool. We wanted the flexibility to make corrections and add content to a post. Once Facebook enabled that, it created a greater degree of flexibility for us.”

Catania says if a feature is implemented, it should allow the user to look at the edit history, similar to what Facebook does, to show the audience what changes were made,

Those posts are flagged as edited and they can look at the edit trail,” Catania said. “That would be important in a Twitter editing tool. Without that capability, an editing tool would not be as beneficial to news organizations as we would like.”

A spokesperson for Twitter did not respond to a request via email seeking comment for this post.

Catania says overall, an editing tool would be appreciated in the long term by news organizations, especially considering the algorithm Twitter uses, where an incorrect tweet could be retweeted (similar to incidents with the Associated Press on coverage of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17), and a revised tweet could gain less traction as they travel separately.

Accuracy is an expectation,” Catania said. “Twitter challenges and makes it harder to fulfill and carry through that expectation. Having that tool would help that.”

Alex Veeneman is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists based in Chicago. Veeneman also serves as Deputy Editor and writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can tweet him @alex_veeneman or email spjdigital@gmail.com.

Author’s note: This post was updated on August 11 to reflect a correction – KNBC, known as NBC4 Southern California, is an owned and operated station of NBC, and not an affiliate as previously indicated. We apologize for the mistake.

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