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NBC News to Launch ‘Think,’ a Commentary and Opinion Hub

Dan Rather is going to work for NBC News. And so are John Legend and JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.

They aren’t about to grab a microphone and a camera crew and head to a breaking-news scene like hurricane-torn Puerto Rico or a section of California ravaged by wildfires, but they will start to contribute opinion pieces for a venture that has the NBCUniversal-owned unit expanding its online role. Called “Think,” the vertical will provide commentary pieces from a range of interesting personalities, including MSNBC’s Joy Reid and Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, as well as the aforementioned figures.

“We are news, first and foremost. That’s what brings people to our properties,” said Nick Ascheim, senior vice president of digital for NBC News and MSNBC, in an interview. “But once they are here, we want to give them a more varied and richer experience – something to say rather than ‘This just happened five minutes ago.’”

NBC News executives believe a regular dose of commentary will be welcomed by visitors hoping to not only get the headlines, but also some help with making sense of them. The site will utilize a range of formats, including essays, video, and even animation. “We really want to have as much fun as we can with the format as well as the content,” said Ascheim.

“Think” is one of a number of verticals NBC News has launched in recent months. One called “Better” aims to aid visitors with health, wellness and self-improvement. Another, “Mach,” looks at technology and innovation. NBC News is expected to launch one devoted to coverage of the media industry after it announced  the hires of a reporter and several contributors devoted to the topic a few weeks ago.

“Think” will be edited by Meredith Bennett-Smith and Megan Carpentier, who report to Catherine Kim, executive editor of NBC News Digital. The initial plans call for  “Think” to post two to three pieces each day, said Ascheim, but that could change based on usage.

NBC News has “people who have been part of the NBC family for a while, but who are already doing what really would be called perspective-based programming.” The new hub is part of an effort “to give them a digital presence, a place where they can express thoughts online, as well as on air.”

Other contributors include Evan McMullin, the former CIA operations officer and one-time presidential candidate;  Henry Olsen, senior fellow with the Ethics and Public Policy Center; and Maxine Waters, the California Democrat who is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The launch takes place as several large TV-news outlets work to develop digital niches. CNN has recently launched verticals devoted to technology and politics and has telegraphed plans to develop a hub to chronicle the business of the West Coast and Silicon Valley.

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