Here are some of my observations regarding Nightly News and broadcast journalism from the "inside" of the establishment:
Corporate interference: I arrived wondering whether the journalistic ethics of NBC News were ever violated because of ownership by a mass conglomerate (all the broadcast networks are owned by massive corporations). I received a strong response from the anchorman himself: Brian Williams was quick to point out that NBC covered the EPA's decision to force General Electric to dredge the Hudson River for PCBs just like other news outlets. I decided to do a fact check. Sure enough, on August 1, 2001, Brian himself anchored one of the newscasts during which Nightly covered the story. Journalists are journalists, and I now know that at NBC, they value their journalistic integrity.
Length of Nightly News: The most frustrating aspect of Nightly is the constraint of time. While 23 minutes may be enough time to cover most of the major events that happened in the world that day, it is certainly not enough time to cover the events and provide necessary context to fully understand them. Although discussion on this blog is urging it, moving to an hour-long broadcast is not forthcoming. Executive Producer John Reiss explained that it is not happening for a variety of reasons, primarily because the affiliate stations have no interest in carrying a second half-hour (on a breaking news day, in the event Nightly News wishes to expand to an hour, 80 percent of NBC affiliates must first agree to carry the expanded broadcast). I am a huge fan of Nightly and hope that it remains your main source of news, but to be a fully informed citizen Nightly should not be your only source of news.
Working environment: During the summer I have had the opportunity to meet and speak with Brian, Tim Russert and others who actually bring you the news. They have all been gracious and welcoming. It is indicative of the family atmosphere that exists in the newsroom. It can be intense here, but there is also a general sense of camaraderie, especially from Senior Foreign Producer M.L. Flynn. M.L.'s maternal behavior makes her both a therapist and motivator to so many people, from New York to Iraq. And as for Brian, one producer told me he is the funniest man in the building. I would only disagree because Conan O'Brien works a few floors up, but I would feel comfortable saying second funniest. Either way, I am deeply appreciative of his approachability and kind words on this blog.
When I was three years old, I had the thrill of meeting Tom Brokaw in 30 Rockefeller Center and walking home with a cassette tape of John Williams' NBC News theme song (jump to 2006: now available on iTunes). My allegiance to this network and this newscast sprung directly from that experience. I can only describe my opportunity to work in this newsroom as a dream come true, especially for a news junkie who is only 19. I gratefully thank everyone whom I have encountered working behind the scenes here in New York. Their work makes Nightly News America's most popular daily source of news and it has inspired me. I also want to thank my fellow interns. My guess is you will see these young adults making a major difference in the field of journalism.