As an investigative reporter for NBC News, Stephanie Gosk has dug into everything from the Orlando nightclub shooting to the trial of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert. But in recent days, she’s had to shine a light into the halls of her own employer.
Gosk is the reporter NBC News assigned to cover its recent termination of Matt Lauer. The veteran former “Today” host was ousted from the show for inappropriate sexual behavior, according to NBC News. Variety, citing three women who identified themselves as victims of sexual harassment by Lauer, detailed multiple allegations against the anchor. In a recent statement, he acknowledged some of the behavior but also said some of the accusations were not accurate. The network has refused to pay a settlement to Lauer, once one of the highest-paid journalists on TV, with a reported $20 million to $25 million annual contract.
Her assignment has been unusual, Gosk acknowledged during a recent appearance on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.” “It starts with a gut punch, and it has been very strange,” she said. “For me, the important thing has been to report in the same way I would report the CBS story about Charlie Rose.”
NBC’s willingness to probe its own scandal — and make the details available to the public in such a fashion — has become the new norm in an era when so many allegations of sexual harassment in the media industry have come to light. CBS News has been aggressive in its coverage of the dismissal of former “CBS This Morning” co-anchor Rose. In November, one day after a report in The Washington Post detailing harassment allegations surfaced, CBS reporters revealed new accusations of Rose’s misbehavior.
“CBS and NBC understand that immediate, almost instantaneous and transparent action in the age of social media are required to keep the story from spinning out of their reach,” says Rich Hanley, an associate professor of journalism at Quinnipiac University. “Airlines learned this lesson the hard way when videos of mistreatment of passengers went viral and the response was initially slow in coming or awkwardly distributed. The rapid response to a crisis is now a business strategy. Social media changed the old way of doing things.”
As Gosk noted to Maddow, the job of covering a scandal from the inside is fraught with challenges. When NBC News staffers attended a meeting with Noah Oppenheim, the unit’s president, to discuss the Lauer situation, Gosk said she declined to attend. As she told Maddow, the event was not a public one and the things discussed there were off the record, or unable to be revealed in public under a previously established agreement. But when colleagues came to her to discuss what was said, Gosk said she had information she could try to verify with NBC News.
“Like Savannah [Guthrie] and Hoda [Kotb] said, we will continue to cover this story as journalists. That was a very hard thing for them to do. I’m sending them all hugs because that is a family that is right now very heartbroken.”
Natalie Morales, ‘Access Hollywood’
NBC News declined to make Gosk available for an interview for this story.
NBC as a corporate entity hasn’t always been so comfortable airing its internal laundry. When the network was suffering through a much-scrutinized scandal involving anchor Brian Williams in 2015, it didn’t rush to talk about it. “Where are you hiding Brian Williams? Where is he?” asked actor Jim Carrey during the live NBC broadcast of a red-carpet preshow for the 40th anniversary of “Saturday Night Live.” Lauer, who was interviewing the comic with Savannah Guthrie, tried to move to other topics.
That aversion to self-reporting is changing in the current era. “Access Hollywood” devoted much of a recent broadcast to covering the Lauer story. Natalie Morales, who worked for several years in a prominent role at “Today,” is a co-anchor of the show-business program. “Like Savannah and Hoda said, we will continue to cover this story as journalists,” Morales said on air. “That was a very hard thing for them to do. I’m sending them all hugs because that is a family that is right now very heartbroken.”
NBC’s late-night comics also haven’t run from the Lauer imbroglio, instead teeing it up for satire. “NBC has fired Matt Lauer at the ‘Today’ show after he was accused of inappropriate sexual behavior,” said Jimmy Fallon during a recent monologue on NBC’s “Tonight Show.” “So if you’re wondering where in the world is Matt Lauer, he’s probably at a bar with Charlie Rose.” “Where in the World Is Matt Lauer?,” in which the anchor traveled to various international spots, had been a recurring segment on “Today.”
Seth Meyers also examined the Lauer controversy on NBC’s “Late Night” in Closer Look, one of the program’s signature segments. “And you thought the most disgusting thing at the Sochi Olympics was Bob Costas’ pink eye,” said Meyers, making reference to allegations that Lauer exhibited inappropriate sexual behavior to an NBC News colleague while working there in 2014. “Well, move over, pink eye, there’s a new, grosser sheriff in town.”