NBC News President Tells Staffers Why He Passed on Ronan Farrow’s Harvey Weinstein Story

By Chris Ariens Comment

At a previously-scheduled town hall meeting for NBC News staffers today, news president Noah Oppenheim explained the rationale for not airing Ronan Farrow‘s reporting about Harvey Weinstein–a story that ended up being published by The New Yorker, which resulted in Farrow being booked on multiple TV networks to talk about it.

Oppenheim began by talking about new additions to the NBC News investigative unit, and continued:

One of the consequences of choosing, as a news organization, to invest and lean into investigation journalism, is that we are going to often times, chase and touch upon stories that we are unfortunately not the ones who end up breaking. So, on that note, I wanted to come up here and proactively address some of the noise that has been circulating regarding Ronan Farrow’s great Harvey Weinstein scoop.

Because, it would pain all of us who were involved in that, and involved in investigations, if anyone at this organization, thought there was anything to be ashamed of in that decision making process. In fact, quite the contrary. Ronan, who was not working for us exclusively, began reporting on that story for NBC. We are proud of that. We launched him on that story, we encouraged him to report that story. We supported him and gave him resources to report that story over many, many months.

The notion that we would try to cover for a powerful person is deeply offensive to all of us. Like pretty much every newspaper and magazine in L.A. and New York, the New York Times up until last week, New York Magazine, The Hollywood Reporter, you name it, we were on that long list of places that chased this thing, tried to nail it but weren’t ultimately the ones who broke it. We reached a point over the summer, where as an organization, we didn’t feel that we had all the elements that we needed to air it.

Ronan very understandably wanted to keep forging ahead, so, we didn’t want to stand in his way and he took it to The New Yorker and did a ton more extraordinary work. He greatly expanded the scope of his reporting. Suffice to say, the stunning story, the incredible story that we all read yesterday, was not the story that we were looking at when we made our judgment several months ago. But we couldn’t be prouder of him, and I think all you need to know about our feeling about the importance of the story is that we have been putting him on our air throughout the day yesterday, and this morning, ever since. And booking accusers and covering the story really aggressively.

So, what I would say, is that we are going to keep digging, we are going to keep pursuing these stories, we are not always going to be the ones that get it to the finish line, but I think more often than not, we will be. And I think we should all be proud of being an organization that is at least in the hunt on these things. So, thank you.

The town hall meeting, assembled by NBC News chairman Andy Lack, is an annual event held in Stuido 8H. Today’s lasted about 45 minutes and also touched on other news investment and digital growth. Lack took questions, but no one asked about Farrow’s report.

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