NBC News is building its own network of reliable sources to cover the ins and outs of the media industry.
The NBCUniversal unit said Friday that it would rely on a handful of staffers, new hires and contributors to report on everything from the frenetic innovations in how content is distributed to the effects the current political scene has on how consumers get their information. Much of the coverage will be offered via a digital “vertical” devoted to the subject, the name of which will be released at a later date. NBC News named Claire Atkinson, a former media-industry reporter for the New York Post, as a senior editor and reporter to lead its efforts.
“We’re in a time where the media industry is facing incredible change due to technology, social platforms, the marketplace, consumer tastes and behaviors,” said Catherine Kim, executive editor at NBC News Digital, in a prepared statement.
The industry is also in the midst of an era when gazing at its own navel seems to bring more tangible rewards than it has in the past. In a nation riven by politics, discussion of Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, The New York Times, Breitbart and other media sources often sparks a torrent of clicks and page views, many of which can be monetized by throwing the numbers to media buyers and demanding better prices for the audience that has been assembled. Time Warner’s CNN has turned a once-sleepy Sunday public affairs program about the media, “Reliable Sources,” into a six-days-a-week newsletter put together by a group of reporters who exhaustively document their slightest maneuver on Twitter. Even invoking a media source once as innocuous as ESPN seems to create great hue and cry in the current cycle.
NBC News is only the latest in a parade of entrants to come on the beat in recent years. Politico and Vanity Fair are among the news outlets that have hired staffers to analyze everything from Megyn Kelly’s latest interview (a topic one suspects the new NBC News effort may not cover in depth) to the future of the news business to the direction of 21st Century Fox as its mantle of leadership is passed from one generation to the next. At a time when streaming video, portable devices and social media gain increasing sway over consumers, the distribution of information is in flux, the credibility of facts can no longer be taken for granted, and a steady flow of advertising to support it all is anything but guaranteed.
NBC News said it would rely on two other staffers for content. James Rainey, a veteran chronicler of the media and entertainment industries at Variety and The Los Angeles Times, joined the unit in April as a reporter based in Los Angeles. Jo Ling Kent, an NBC News and MSNBC correspondent, reports on the business of media, the technology giants, and social media platforms.
The NBCUniversal unit said it would also tap current NBC News and MSNBC contributors like Gabriel Sherman, a writer for Vanity Fair, and Steve Brill, a media entrepreneur. John Huey, the former editor in chief of Time Inc., will join to contribute to digital and broadcast. And the NBC News venture will rely on contributors from media outlets in which its parent company has invested. Kara Swisher and Peter Kafka, two senior editorial operatives at Recode, part of Vox Media, will serve as contributors, as will Ben Smith, editor in chief of Buzzfeed, another outlet in which NBCU holds a significant stake.