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NBC News Group chairman Andrew Lack insists that in the current political climate, the news is still the star. Even if, among the 2,400 employees at the vast NBC News empire that includes MSNBC, “on any given day one employee can feel like thousands to us, because we have some doozies,” he joked.
Speaking at a breakfast panel at New York’s IESE Business School, Lack noted that TV news inevitably mints stars. But he said that the company’s newest employee, Megyn Kelly, is a star because of her journalism skills.
“Megyn Kelly is a serious journalist and her work on Fox [News] commanded attention because of who she was interviewing, how she was interviewing them and what she was getting from them every night on television,” said Lack. “She’s popular. That commands star-like coverage — because of her work.”
Kelly will debut on NBC, most likely in the 9 a.m. hour of Today, this summer and is expected to begin working at NBC News in May, when her non-compete clause times out. Her deal with NBC News includes a Sunday evening show and participation in coverage of big events.
“We were a good fit for her,” said Lack. “She wanted to do a morning show. She wanted to do an evening show.”
Lack said he didn’t “spend a lot of time studying her Fox work. I did want to know that she would fit into the NBC News culture. We’re a big organization, a big tent.”
Kelly, who moderated several Republican presidential primary debates at Fox News, will give NBC News another significant personality at a time when there is great public interest in the young and turbulent administration of Donald Trump. She also has a personal history with Trump, who unleashed a tide of ugly social media vitriol against her after her pointed questioning during the primary debates.
Lack noted that “this president has us a bit more focused on temperament than we expected.” But he seemed to downplay the scourge of “fake news,” which Trump has been using as a cudgel against the mainstream media.
“We’re not the opposition party and we’re not in a popularity contest with this administration or any administration. We have never been popular,” said Lack, reaching back to the administration of Thomas Jefferson to illustrate his point that the press and the presidency have always had a contentious relationship.
“That’s fundamental to our democracy. We go through periods where we’re in the crosshairs, we’re targeted,” added Lack, invoking Richard Nixon’s “enemies list.”
“Here we are again,” he said. “We’re not going to be intimidated by that. I think it’s a distraction from what we’d like to focus on, which is policy.”
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