NBC News Pres. Steve Capus: ‘It’s OK For a News Division To Stand For Something’

By Merrill Knox Comment

After NBC’s Brian Williams wrapped an interview with former President Bill Clinton closing out the network’s second Education Nation Tuesday, the “Nightly News” anchor had one last task — to introduce his boss, NBC News President Steve Capus. Williams — who described the ambitious 3-day event by saying, “I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of anything we’ve done” — recounted an early meeting with Capus on NBC’s commitment to education. “He said, ‘It’s okay for a news division to stand for something — in this case, let’s stand for education and improving it in this country.” TVNewser caught up with Capus, who took the stage to a standing ovation, after his closing remarks:

TVNewser: What’s the motivation to get NBC involved in education? Why this issue?

Steve Capus: First off, it just seemed to me like it was wide open territory, that nobody else was really focusing on it as a priority. And the issue just generates such passionate debate. Just think about what’s at stake: our kids’ future, the direction of our communities, of our country, global competitiveness. Go to any school board meeting on any night of the week in any community, and you’re going to see real, passionate debate about fundamental issues. And my feeling is, let’s do kind of a national school board meeting. It’s the same subject matter. What we can do as a news

division is put a very bright spotlight on subjects that we choose to. A producer makes decisions every single day — are we emphasizing this, are we emphasizing that? Where are we going to place our emphasis and what are we going to ignore? I think that by saying, we’re going to do this, but then stepping back, we can facilitate the conversation without leading it.

TVNewser: What advice do you give to your anchors and reporters who moderate Education Nation events?

Capus: They do a lot of homework. And they all have to be up to speed, and I think they really did a nice job this year in keeping control of the conversation. We learned some things last year. Every single panel this year went longer then they did last year. We did almost two hours yesterday with the nation’s governors. To me, it just is that kind of depth that was really the big difference between this year and last.

TVNewser: What’s the long-term goal for Education Nation? Are you planning on doing it again next year?

Capus: Why not? The good thing is, I think people understand that this is territory that we’re interested in. And if the country understands that NBC News wants to focus on education, that’s a good thing. There are no more important issues in the country, and I feel like we’re succeeding in getting that word out — that this is something we’re serious about doing, and that we’re going to keep doing it. We did the city tour last spring — we went to Philly, Chicago and L.A. I think you’ll see more of that sort of thing.