How NBC News president sees investigative journalism’s future at the network

During a discussion at SXSW, NBC News president Noah Oppenheim discussed the network’s commitment to investigative journalism.

  • Oppenheim emphasized the network’s commitment to investigative journalism during the discussion, which included himself and investigate reporters Carol Lee and Ken Dilanian being interviewed by the L.A. Times’ Stephen Battaglio.
  • In the past two years, the network’s investigative reporting team has double in size 40 and delivered more than 500 scoops, said Oppenheim.
  • NBC has also fine tuned its “NBC News Investigates” branding for shows such “NBC Nightly News.”
  • Lee explained her transition to TV from newspapers as well.
  • “Shortly after I joined NBC, I wrote a story about Secretary of State [Tillerson] calling the president a moron. And normally, if I was a print reporter, and I wrote that story, I would hit publish and hide under my desk and wait for all of the attacks that would come and denials and all that stuff and anyone that’s comfortable with that as a print reporter- you’re better than me.  It never gets easy breaking news when people attack your story. And at NBC, it was like ‘OK, great, get out there, and you’re going to sit on set, and the Secretary of State is coming out, he’s giving a news conference. And then we’re going to turn to you as soon when he’s finished.'”
  • Dilanian also talked about the rise of anonymous leaks.
  • “Because there have been things that are happening in that space that’s never happened before … leaks that we’ve never seen before. The idea that we were talking to people who were familiar with Jared Kushner’s security clearance review, that has never happened. Those people don’t talk to the press generally … we’ve never seen leaks like that,” he said.
  • Oppenheim was also questioned about the network’s decision to send “Today” co-host and weather forecaster Al Roker to the Arctic Circle.
  • This, Oppenheim pointed out is “not uncovering something hidden but sort of shining a spotlight on something that is neglected,” referring the the global impacts of climate change. When you think Al Roker, you don’t necessarily think Woodward, Bernstein, Al Roker?” he joked.
  • The network saw this as a way to draw attention to an important issue using a well known face who’s not necessarily associated with investigative reporting but still has the passion and knowledge to deliver storytelling.
  • Battaglio also pointed out NBC’s efforts in covering scandals and corruption — including within the Olympics — and quizzed Oppenheim if that has proven delicate given the network’s close ties to the IOC.
  • “People sometimes don’t believe me when I say that it’s not at all tricky,” said Oppenheim. “It’s no trickier than reporting on any other subject.”