|Division of:||National Broadcasting Company (NBC)|
|Key people:||Jeff Zucker,
President & CEO
President of NBC News
|Founded:||February 21, 1940|
|Headquarters:||New York City, New York, United States|
|Major Bureaus:||World Headquarters,
New York City, New York, United States
West Coast Headquarters,
Burbank, California, United States
Governmental Affairs Headquarters,
Washington, D.C., United States
|Broadcast programs:||Dateline NBC
Meet the Press
NBC Nightly News
The first American television newscast in history was made by NBC News on February 21, 1940, anchored by Lowell Thomas and airing weeknights at 6:45 pm. In 1948, NBC teamed up with Life magazine to provide election night coverage of President Harry S. Truman's surprising victory over New York Gov. Thomas E. Dewey. The television audience was small, but NBC's share in New York was double that of any other outlet. The following year, the Camel News Caravan, anchored by John Cameron Swayze, began on NBC. Lacking the graphics and technology of later years, it nonetheless contained many of the elements of modern newscasts. NBC hired its own film crews and in the program's early years, it dominated CBS's competing program, which did not hire its own film crews until 1953. (By contrast, CBS spent lavishly on Edward R. Murrow's weekly series, See It Now.) In 1950, David Brinkley began serving as the program's Washington correspondent but attracted little attention outside the network until paired with Chet Huntley in 1956. In 1955, the Camel News Caravan fell behind CBS's Douglas Edwards with the News, and Swayze lost the already tepid support of NBC executives. The following year, NBC replaced the program with the Huntley-Brinkley Report.
Beginning in 1951, NBC News was managed by Bill McAndrew, Director of News, who reported to J. Davidson Taylor, Vice President of News and Public Affairs.
As television assumed an increasingly prominent role in American family life in the late 1950s, NBC News became television's "champion of news coverage." NBC President Robert Kintner believed that a dominant NBC News could lift his entire network to the top, and he provided the news division with ample amounts of both financial resources and air time. In 1956, the network paired anchors Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, and the two went on to acquire great celebrity. They were supported by a strong bench of reporters that over time included John Chancellor, Frank McGee, Edwin Newman, Sander Vanocur, Nancy Dickerson, Tom Pettit, and Ray Scherer.
Created by producer Reuven Frank, NBC's Huntley-Brinkley Report, anchored by the team of Chet Huntley in New York and David Brinkley in Washington, began in 1956 and soon set the standard for evening news programs. During much of its 14-year run, it exceeded the viewership levels attained by its CBS News competition, anchored initially by Douglas Edwards and, beginning in 1962, by Walter Cronkite.
NBC stood out for its reporting on the civil rights movement. NBC's Vice President of News and Public Affairs, J. Davidson Taylor, was a Southerner who understood the importance of the story, and he and producer Reuven Frank were determined that NBC would lead television's coverage of it. In 1955, NBC provided national coverage of the young Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s leadership of the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, airing reports from Frank McGee, then news director of WSFA-TV, NBC's Montgomery affiliate, and soon to join the network. A year later, John Chancellor's coverage of the admission of black students to Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas provided the first occasion when the signature reporter on a story came from television rather than print and prompted a prominent U.S. senator to observe later, "When I think of Little Rock, I think of John Chancellor." Other reporters who covered the movement for the network included Sander Vanocur, Herbert Kaplow, Charles Quinn, and Richard Valeriani. Valeriani suffered a serious head injury when hit with an ax handle at a demonstration in Marion, Alabama in 1965.
While CBS's Walter Cronkite's fascination with space eventually won the anchorman viewers, NBC, with the work of correspondents such as Frank McGee, Roy Neal, and Jay Barbree, also distinguished itself in the coverage of American manned space missions in the Project Mercury, Project Gemini, and Project Apollo programs. In an era when space missions rated continuous coverage, NBC configured its largest studio, Studio 8H, for space coverage. It utilized models and mockups of rockets and spacecraft, maps of the earth and moon to show orbital trackage, and stages on which animated figures created by puppeteer Bil Baird were used to depict movements of astronauts before on-board spacecraft television cameras were feasible. (Studio 8H had been home to the NBC Symphony Orchestra led by Arturo Toscanini and is now the home of the long-running NBC show, Saturday Night Live.) NBC's coverage of the first moon landing in 1969 earned the network an Emmy Award.
In the late 1950s, NBC President Robert Kintner reorganized the chain of command at the network, making Bill McAndrew president of NBC News, reporting directly to Kintner. McAndrew served in that position until his death in 1968. McAndrew was succeeded by his executive vice president, producer Reuven Frank, who held the position until 1973.
NBC's ratings lead began to slip toward the end of the 1960s and fell sharply when Chet Huntley retired in 1970 (Huntley died of cancer in 1974). The loss of Huntley, along with a reluctance by RCA to fund NBC News at a similar level CBS was funding its news division, left NBC News in the doldrums. The network tried a platoon of anchors (Brinkley, McGee, and John Chancellor) for some months afterward. Despite the efforts of the network's eventual lead anchor, the articulate, even-toned Chancellor, and an occasional first-place finish in the Nielsens, Nightly News in the 1970s was primarily a strong second. By the end of the decade, NBC had to contend not only with a powerful CBS but also a surging ABC, led by Roone Arledge. Tom Brokaw became sole anchor in 1983, after co-anchoring with Roger Mudd for a year, and began leading NBC's efforts. In 1986 and 1987, NBC won the top spot in the Nielsens for the first time in years, only to fall back when Nielsen's ratings methodology changed. In late 1996, Nightly News again moved into first place, a spot it has held onto in most of the succeeding years.
NBC's primary news show is NBC Nightly News. Brian Williams assumed primary anchor duties in December, 2004 upon the retirement of his predecessor, Tom Brokaw. On October 22, 2007, NBC Nightly News moved into its new high definition studios, at Studio 3C at NBC Studios in 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. The network's 24 hour cable network, MSNBC, joined the network in New York on that day as well. The new studios/headquarters for NBC News and MSNBC are now located in one area.
Nine men have served as president of NBC News during this period: Reuven Frank (1968-1973, 1981-1985), Richard Wald (1973-1977), Lester M. Crystal (1977-1979), William J. Small (1979-1981), Lawrence Grossman (1985-1988), Michael Gartner (1988-1993), Andrew Lack (1993-2001), Neal Shapiro (2001-2005), and Steve Capus (2005-present).
Additionally, 'NBC News Radio' broadcasts radio news bulletins at the top of the hour, produced and distributed by Westwood One, an independent radio network and syndicator. Listen to the latest headline bulletin by clicking here (subject to availability).
In 1982, NBC News began production on NBC News Overnight with anchors Linda Ellerbee, Lloyd Dobyns, and Bill Schechner. That program was cancelled in December 1983, but in 1991, NBC News aired another overnight news show called NBC Nightside. During its run, the show's anchors included Sara James, Bruce Hall, Antonio Mora, Tom Miller, Campbell Brown, Kim Hindrew, Tom Donavan, and Tonya Strong. NBC Nightside lasted until 1998 and was replaced by reruns of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night with Conan O'Brien, but this practice was discontinued and this time slot is now used by local stations to put syndicated programming. In the early 1990s, NBC News produced a short-lived investigative program called Exposé.
NBC News Channel is a news video and report feed service, similar to a wire service, providing pre-produced international, national and regional stories some with fronting reporters customized for NBC network affiliates. It is based in Charlotte, North Carolina. NBC News Channel also served as the production base of NBC Nightside.
On November 22, 1963, NBC broke into various programming through affiliate stations at 1:45 p.m. to announce that President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas. Six minutes later, NBC broke into programming with a NBC Network bumper slide and Chet Huntley, Bill Ryan, and Frank McGee informing the viewers what was going on as it happened, but since a camera wasn't in service the reports were audio only. However, NBC didn't begin broadcasting over the air until 1:57 p.m. EST. About 40 minutes later, after word came that JFK was pronounced dead, NBC canceled programming for four days and carried 71 hours of uninterrupted news coverage of the assassination and the funeral of the president.
NBC News got the first American news interviews from two Russian presidents (Vladimir Putin, Mikhail Gorbachev), and Brokaw was the only American TV news correspondent to witness the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
During the Iraq War, NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw covered the war extensively, in part owing to the willingness of GE to fund it. NBC newsman David Bloom pushed through the GE and U.S. Department of Defense bureaucracies permission to construct a mobile news vehicle that could transmit live video broadcasts from the battlefield. The "Bloom-mobile" brought satellite images and videos into homes across America and Europe. Bloom did not live to accept the accolades after the armed conflict; he died of natural causes unrelated to combat during the final phase of the fighting.
In 1993, Dateline NBC broadcast an investigative report about the safety of General Motors (GM) trucks. GM discovered the "actual footage" utilized in the broadcast had been rigged by the inclusion of explosive incendiaries attached to the gas tanks and the use of improper sealants for those tanks. GM subsequently filed an anti-defamation lawsuit against NBC, which publicly admitted the results of the tests were rigged and settled the lawsuit with GM. As a result of the controversy, several Dateline producers were fired and NBC News President Michael Gartner was forced out.
On April 16, 2007, Cho Seung-hui stormed through a classroom building at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University at Blacksburg, Virginia and randomly shot and killed 32 people, injuring 29 others. Two hours earlier, he had slain two other people at a dormitory in another part of the campus.
Cho took time between the two shooting episodes to prepare and mail a large multimedia package to NBC News in New York containing messages about his anger at the wealthy and alluding to the slaughter that was about to take place. Although the package was sent overnight mail, it was not received until 11 a.m. on April 18 because of Cho's confusion over the zip code of NBC's headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
The package contained a DVD showing video clips of Cho speaking and more than two dozen photos of Cho, including 11 of him thrusting pistols at the camera. A postal worker delivering the parcel to the network's Rockefeller Center offices recognized the sender and alerted NBC security personnel. They immediately reported the package to the FBI. Meanwhile, NBC made copies of the contents and aired carefully edited pieces on its evening news and cable programs. Snippets from the package, including still photos, videos and voice narration, were also made available to competing news outlets who agreed to credit the network as the source. NBC News president Steve Capus defended use of the material but the frequency of its broadcast was cut dramatically.
During the Financial crisis of 2007-2008, NBC News was urged to save $500 million by NBC Universal. On that occasion, NBC News laid off several of its in-house reporters like Kevin Corke, Jeannie Ohm or Don Teague. This was the largest lay-off in NBC News history. After the sudden death of the influential moderator Tim Russert of Meet the Press in June 2008, Tom Brokaw took over as an interim host and on December 14, 2008 David Gregory has become the new moderator of that show.
NBC Nightly News is shown on CNBC Europe. MSNBC is not shown outside the Americas on a channel in its own right. However, both NBC News and MSNBC are shown for a few hours a day on Orbit News in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. MSNBC is also shown occasionally on sister network CNBC Europe during breaking news. Some NBC News programs are shown in the Philippines on 2nd Avenue. NBC Nightly News, along with the full program lineup of NBC, is carried by affiliate VSB-TV in Bermuda. In Australia; the first 2 hours of Today, Weekend Today and Meet The Press are broadcast early in the morning on the Seven Network, just before their own morning show Sunrise.