Shapiro Steps Down: “I’ve Concluded That It’s Time To Move On To A New Challenge”

By Brian 

Neal Shapiro‘s message to colleagues:

Since last Spring, there’s been a lot of speculation in the press about my tenure here. I’ve made a decision and I wanted you to hear about what’s happening from me. When we began our annual planning process this year, I began to think about my future at NBC.

Specifically, I wondered if I would find the next few years as personally fulfilling as the first four I have spent as the President of NBC News. I also found myself missing the opportunity for the kind of creativity I’ve had in previous jobs. Reflecting on all of this, I’ve concluded that it’s time to move on to a new challenge.

I’ll be here until September 9th and it seems fitting to be spending my final days at work on one of the biggest stories of the year. For the past few months, I’ve been conferring with Jeff Zucker on all the promotions and announcements I have made and I am confident I leave behind an extremely capable and experienced team in the front office and on all our broadcasts.

It’s important to me that my departure not be used in anyway to diminish the accomplishments of this news division, whose record is the envy of the industry. As President of NBC News, we’ve worked together on some of the most important events of our time and seen the world change in fundamental ways. When America was attacked on September 11, we responded as a team–with fearless, smart, compassionate coverage. More viewers turned to us then and have stayed with us for every compelling story: when anthrax was found in our own newsroom, when America went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, for the Papal succession, the Tsunami, the bombings in London and now Hurricane Katrina. The list goes on and on.

Some of the most challenging days I faced in this job were when our own people were under attack–sick, missing, kidnapped or killed. We treasured the lives we saved and comforted each other as we mourned our losses. But, we never missed a beat and no matter what pressures we faced, our commitment to truth and integrity never wavered. That is a tribute to all of you.

Eight months ago, we changed anchors at Nightly News. History told us this would be tough. Our critics were sure we would fail. Instead, the seamless transition from Tom to Brian has been an unprecedented success. That transition followed a season of outstanding political coverage and a remarkable election night that saw NBC News rewrite the book on how it’s done. As our parent company says, it was Imagination at Work. The Today show remains number one; Meet the Press continues to set the standard on Sunday; and Dateline is still the most innovative newsmagazine on television, with as many as four or five hours in a single week. News Channel is the best in the business and our relationships with our affiliates have never been better. After years of flux, we’ve stabilized and improved the programming at MSNBC.

There is more work to be done but we’ve taken positive steps just as we did at, where our changes have helped make it the nation’s number one news site. We’ve added depth and diversity to the best television newsgathering team ever assembled and no news division is better positioned for the next generation of news delivery, with our productions on the network, on cable, on the web, in syndication, on the radio and on cell phones. I’m so proud of all that we have accomplished together.

It’s been a deeply rewarding experience and I hope you all share the pride that I have about NBC News–the pride that goes with being THE network America turns to in every crisis and the pride that belongs to the only news division that can say it is number one in the morning, number one in the evening and number one on Sunday morning.

As for me, I don’t know what’s next, whether it’s at NBC Universal or elsewhere. As I leave here, I thank you for your support and I want you all to know what an honor and a privilege it’s been to be the president of this incredible news division.

Warmly, Neal