New NBC News prez Andrew Lack no doubt scored some points with visiting TV critics Thursday when he cited his alarm over the tabloid magazine genre, calling the advent of such shows “the most troubling issue that confronts us” in network news.
Lack said he worried that “the line gets blurred” between more conventional news and syndicated magazines like “Hard Copy” and “A Current Affair,” and is disturbed by the fact that the success of those shows will compel network broadcasts to “draw material from that arena.”
Ironically, some feel it was precisely that pressure that prompted the “Dateline NBC”-General Motors blow-up, resulting in the exit of Lack’s predecessor, Michael Gartner.
Lack attributed the interest in tabloid shows to “an absence of some good drama on the air, (and) maybe this is replacing it.”
In response to questions about “Dateline’s” solid ratings performance despite the GM controvery, Lack maintained that the audience had said, “OK, let’s move on,” after the rigging event. “Every news organization has had incidents like this,” he said.
The former CBS News producer added that he hopes “real hard news will prevail” at NBC, saying his mandate is to improve the network’s existing shows and introduce other broadcasts that will complement them.
That includes expanding the magazine ranks, where a relative shortage compared to ABC and CBS “puts us at a disadvantage as a news organization,” Lack said. NBC will launch a third news hour, “Now With Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric,” on Aug. 18, exec produced by “Today’s” Jeff Zucker.
The show was originally planned for Faith Daniels before Lack came aboard and subbed in the current hosts, saying Thursday that having Brokaw in the anchor seat “gives the show a leg up in the early going.”
During a separate session Brokaw said the show will seek to be timely and topical, capitalizing on its live element.
The anchorman quipped that he and Couric were fronting the show because “it’s another way to amortize our salaries,” and said since NBC wouldn’t let David Letterman have the Top 10 List and Stupid Pet Tricks, he planned to use them on “Now.”
In a more serious vein, Brokaw said his “great dream” is for an hour nightly newscast, “maybe even in primetime,” and acknowledged that the media occasionally engages in a feeding frenzy mentality, making it difficult for public officials to operate “in an environment with any kind of rationality.”
As for Zucker’s other assignment, “Today” recently broke a 34-week “Good Morning America” win streak, and Lack predicts “a real slugfest this fall” between the two programs. They are currently tied in the Nielsens through three weeks of the third quarter.