NBC News Plans Year of Special Reports Too Big For Just One Show

Savannah Guthrie’s next one-hour special won’t appear on any of NBC News’ best known properties, which include “Today” and “NBC Nightly News.”  And yet, it may be of more critical importance to the NBCUniversal-owned news organization than any in-depth report she’s presented in recent months.

Guthrie will today kick off a week-long focus by NBC News on the mental health of young people during the pandemic, the first of what NBC News President Noah Oppenheim says will be a year-long effort to provide deep reports – one a week — around specific topics across NBC News media properties.

Reports from the first series, “Kids Under Pressure,” will air on “Today,” “NBC Nightly News,” MSNBC’s daytime programs, NBC News.com and NBC News Now, the unit’s streaming-video hub. After delivering segments devoted to the topic on NBC News morning and evening programs, Guthrie will host a one-hour special on NBC News Now on February 24 that takes her back to her high school in Arizona.

Most of the nation’s big TV-news mainstays have begun offering new live-streaming reports daily, but they typically use different personnel than their traditional TV counterparts and work to appeal to a younger audience as well. By delving into a big topic each week, and spreading that work among personnel devoted to broadcast, digital and cable, NBC News can familiarize viewers with more of its outlets.

“The more platforms we put these reports on, the greater the impact they are going to have in the wider world,” says Oppenheim, in an interview. He has assigned Madeleine Haeringer, an NBC News senior vice president who has experience producing for NBC News. MSNBC, Vice and Quibi, to oversee the year-long project. In weeks to come, NBC News will examine issues faced by Black Americans; climate change; and more.

NBC News’ rivals are also working furiously to stitch together the divide between their digital efforts and their linear ones. ABC News has enlisted Linsey Davis, who hosts a primetime show on its ABC News Live broadband outlet, for major special reports built around the recent presidential election and debates, and just named her to anchor Sunday’s broadcast of “World News Tonight.” CBS News regularly plays segments from its programs on CBSN, its streaming-video service.

NBC’s digital-news efforts have taken up new bandwidth in recent months. NBCU’s Peacock streaming hub earlier this month unveiled a 24/7 free channel devoted to binge-viewing NBC News “Dateline,” and curated collections of the series, typically devoted to true-crime documentaries. NBC last July launched a streaming “feed” built around segments and original vignettes from its morning-show franchise, “Today.”

The first of NBC News’ weekly reports will also involve Kate Snow, Gadi Schwartz, Rehema Ellis, Morgan Chesky and Jo Ling Kent. They will also examine how kids are coping during the pandemic, examining everything from schoolwork, sleep and stress to an increase in prescriptions for ADHD.

The new cross-media efforts come after NBC News has augmented its editorial staff with more reporters and correspondents, and added reporters responsible for covering news in particular regions of the country, such as Houston, Cleveland and Cincinnati.

“As a TV-news organization, we can’t simply be repurposing what our print competitors are reporting,” says Oppenheim. “We have to be breaking news and disrupting the news cycle ourselves.”

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