Keith Morrison on the Staying Power of Dateline: ‘We Just Keep Doing What We Do’

By Chris Ariens 

A teenager is accused of murdering a mother and her son. After six hours in police interrogation, he confesses to the crime. But did he do it?

For the last three weeks Dateline’s “In the Shadow of Justice” series has been featuring stories of those wrongfully convicted. This Sunday on NBC, Keith Morrison delves into the case of Robert Davis, whose lawyers have spent the last decade trying to prove his innocence. We caught up with Morrison to learn more about the series which taps into the trend of stories focusing on the criminal justice system:

TVNewser: With this series, is Dateline taking a page from the popular podcast Serial, and Netflix’s Making a Murderer which focus more on the convicted than on the victim?


Morrison: Dateline has been reporting stories involving false confessions for many years. Sunday’s story about the case of Robert Davis is one of the most remarkable examples.  We started following his case years ago. The Netflix series “Making a Murderer” has very happily put the spotlight on a serious issue that we are glad to illuminate.

TVNewser: What did you learn in your reporting, about how common it is for the accused to give false confessions, and why do they do it?

Morrison: How common are false confessions?  Too common. A quarter of those exonerated after conviction actually confessed to crimes they didn’t commit. Interrogation techniques used in America – banned in many other countries – have persuaded too many young or vulnerable people to falsely confess.

TVNewser: Crime shows, whether news shows or entertainment series, have historically done very well on TV. But with so much attention given to presidential politics right now, how does Dateline stay top of mind?

Morrison: We just keep doing what we do.

TVNewser: Has NBC News chairman Andy Lack’s presence been felt in the Dateline offices? After all, he came to NBC the first time, in 1993, with one of his mandates being to fix Dateline. And by all accounts he did.

MorrisonHaderMorrison: Andy Lack has been in our corner all along. We’re glad he’s back.

TVNewser: Do you miss Bill Hader’s impression of you on Saturday Night Live?

Morrison: (He didn’t answer, but gave us a grin.)