September 19, 2013


UPDATE: Sign our petition!

Dear Deborah Turness, President of NBC News:

I know you're new to NBC News and there's a lot to adjust to, especially as a foreigner. But I had to write to you as a regular viewer, a politically- and journalistically-engaged person and as an American, deeply concerned by the dumbing down and willful ignorance of the country I love.

I also know that a lot of your employees read this site regularly, so I'm hoping that you'll actually be informed about this open letter to you. Hell, I know they steal video clips and tips from us; it's really the least they could do to bring our concerns to you. Maybe they could pass it on to Phil Griffin of MSNBC as well.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but you have really failed in the most basic of job descriptions for your news department staff and you need to step it up and make sure that they understand what their job entails.

Not following? Watch this:

(h/t Heather)

Please tell me how you have managed to keep someone the Political Director of your news department and have him actually refuse to be responsible to provide facts to your viewership? Sure, maybe Chuck Todd didn't graduate from journalism school (or any university--honorary degrees don't count, Deb), so maybe he can be excused from knowing what a news department employee does. But ultimately, you're his boss, and you have clearly failed him (and the consumers of NBC News) by not providing him with a clear and unambiguous job description.

It's not hard. A journalist informs his/her readership of facts. When non-facts are provided for partisan purposes, it is not "doing the job of the White House to sell" a government program to say that these are LIES. That's reporting. That's journalism. Someone who just repeats what's said to him without placing it in context is called a stenographer. And that is beyond the poor little pea brain of your political director to understand.

Actually, that's not fair. It's not only Chuck Todd who can't grasp that simple concept. David Gregory doesn't, either. Which points, once again, to a systemic issue that your new stewardship of NBC News must address.

Don't believe me? I have link after link after link after link after link after link after link after link that prove I'm right and you are now heading a miserable failure of a major news department.

Now you may pooh-pooh that as hyperbole, but let me make this perfectly clear: this particular case that Chuck Todd didn't think was his job to provide factual and contextual information is quite literally a matter of life and death, and studies have shown that SEVENTY PERCENT of Americans don't understand what Obamacare actually does or how it impacts them. Now Chuck thinks that it's the White House's job to "sell" the program, but make no mistake, if Chuck Todd and all his other colleagues at NBC News actually fact-checked all the lies that Republicans tell about Obamacare, that number would be much, much lower. So you must accept your culpability in the ignorance of the country. If your job is to provide information, by any metric, this shows that news organizations have failed the American people massively.

Now it may be the case that you've studied the business model of Fox News and decided to emulate it because you want that oh-so-coveted demographic of "one foot in the grave" and feel like factual information and context are not necessary to a successful news organization.

Certainly, that's your prerogative, and I'm sure you have a lot of pressure from the suits higher up in the NBC Universal/Comcast hierarchy to do so. But let me clue you in: your viewers aren't Fox News viewers who only watch to have their authoritarian tendencies and fears confirmed. They are younger, more factually-based and most importantly, not willing to be patient with pathetic excuses for journalists like Chuck Todd and David Gregory.

Here's the other thing you should know: We've spent the last nine years documenting the lies of Fox News. Why do you think John Amato named the site Crooks and Liars? We don't take them seriously as a news source and every day, we show why no one should. If you don't act quickly to make sure that your journalists understand the parameters of journalism (maybe have Rachel Maddow train them?), then we'll be forced to do the same for you. We will treat NBC News as a joke. We will scorn politicos who go on NBC News. We'll actively advocate for viewers to seek their information elsewhere, because they can't rely on NBC News to provide accurate and factual information.

And I don't think you want that to happen so early in your tenure. So think about it, and maybe have a little heart-to-heart with Chuck Todd (and David Gregory, while you're at it).


Nicole Belle

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