Deborah Turness Wraps up One Year at NBC News

NBC News President Deborah Turness has finished up her first year as the head of NBC News. On Friday, she marked the occasion by sending a long memo to the staff:

rom: Deborah Turness (NBCUniversal)
Date: September 5, 2014 at 4:46:37 PM EDT
To: @NBC Uni NBC News All
Subject: A Note of Thanks

Dear All,

It’s been a great week at NBC News and a great way to start the “new term.” Brian and the Nightly News team scored a decisive win both in total viewers and in the demo on Tuesday night. The broadcast featured Matt Lauer’s powerful exclusive interview with Dr. Kent Brantly and his wife Amber. The next morning on TODAY, Matt broadcast from inside the isolation unit where Dr. Brantly was treated. This was yet another shining example of the great journalism, tenacious booking and creative thinking that sets NBC News apart. It’s also a wonderful example of collaboration across TODAY, Nightly and that will culminate in a network special tonight at 10pm ET, “Saving Dr. Brantly: The Inside Story of a Medical Miracle,” produced by the NBC News primetime team who worked through the night to make deadline. Congratulations to Lexi Rudolph, who invested so much to secure the interview, to Matt Zimmerman and to Matt Lauer.

Within 24 hours Richard Engel delivered another exclusive — an interview with an American citizen with a quest to join ISIS. Thanks to his team who worked for months to secure the interviews and to deliver a powerful piece of original journalism.

Launching the fall with these major exclusives has set the scene for a busy season. But before looking ahead, I’d first like to thank all those who contributed to our coverage during the busiest summer most of us can remember. Both at home and abroad, major stories unfolded simultaneously. Many people put aside plans for vacations to head to what were, in many cases, difficult and dangerous assignments.

Our teams in Israel and Gaza, including Richard Engel, Ayman Mohyeldin, Bill Neely, Kate Snow, Martin Fletcher, and Stephanie Gosk covered this deeply distressing conflict from both sides of the border. My sincere thanks go to Paul Nassar, Tony Day, James Novogrod, John Kooistra, Kyle Eppler, Ghazi Balkiz, Stewart Scanlon, Bruno Trepanier, and Wajjeh Abu Zarifa who worked alongside our correspondents to deliver the news, day after day.

With word of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Dr. Nancy, Maggie Fox and the medical unit aggressively pursued every storyline and debunked the myths that surround the disease. Their connections and resources granted us rare access to the CDC, right inside the nerve center of America’s response. And the TODAY show became the first to get close to the story when Matt spoke exclusively with Jeremy Writebol, as his mother Nancy fought the disease.

As the Ferguson story erupted, NBC News responded. We’re all proud that Brian was the only network news anchor and Nightly was the only network news broadcast to come live from location. From day one, Ron Allen was there, filming by night as the town took on the appearance of a warzone, and by day delivering the breaking story to all our outlets. Reinforcements arrived in the form of Mark Potter, Craig Melvin and many others, who all worked tirelessly backed up by producers, camera crews and engineers. We delivered the story, as well as the context, profiling the town and its people – the story behind the story. 

Over in Iraq, it was the rise of ISIS. Bill Neely, Keir Simmons, Richard Engel, Ayman Mohyeldin and their teams were on the ground reporting on the rise and advance of the terror group, the humanitarian catastrophe that followed, and America’s military re-engagement from the air. And there was an exclusive here too, when we revealed on that an American ISIS militant had been killed. It also led all our broadcasts–a perfect example of the seamless cross-platform collaboration that is so crucial to the future of our success. 

Now we begin a busy September with so much ahead. 

At Nightly News, we’re focused on setting the agenda with more first class journalism and exclusives. Plus, we’ll be counting down to Brian’s 10th anniversary in the anchor chair with a network promotional campaign, and some special editorial features. We’ll all be celebrating off-air too, as we thank everyone for all they’ve done to make Nightly News America’s number one news broadcast. 

At TODAY, while Savannah is at home with baby Vale, Tamron, Natalie and Hoda are stepping in. And as we announced this morning, Matt and the team will be joined by an all-star lineup of special guest anchors. Jamie Horowitz has begun his new role as SVP and General Manager, overseeing the TODAY brand to continue the positive story of growth, to expand our digital presence, and drive greater collaboration across all the hours, days and platforms of the brand. 

A new era of Meet the Press led by Chuck Todd is almost upon us. We are delighted to launch his first show with an exclusive interview with President Obama. If you haven’t yet seen the terrific “Meet the Moderator” spot we ran last week, take a look here: I know Chuck will not only continue the great legacy of Meet the Press, but will also take it into the future, with new ideas and a fresh vision that will challenge the status quo of Sunday morning politics. We’re getting underway just as the midterm election season heats up, a perfect time to begin to evolve the format and find new ways to engage the audience. Evolution is an important word here – the changes that will come with Chuck will be introduced over a period of time – starting this Sunday.

At Dateline, after a summer of great ratings results, and having reached over a million Facebook “likes” (a milestone that Nightly News has also reached), we will continue with the Friday night two-hour format in the fall as a foundation of the weekend schedule. 

Behind the scenes, the “Transformation” work continues. Thank you to all those who have embraced the changes we are driving, both in the field and in the newsroom. I believe this organization, and all of you, deserve the tools and skills you need to make NBC News competitive in this ever-changing digital news environment. I’ll be sharing more news about how we are progressing in the coming weeks.

And on a personal note, I want to thank each and every one of you for all you do every day. Everything I have mentioned here reflects the mission of NBC News as it always has been: to cover the major stories wherever they occur and give our audience the big picture and exclusive insights needed to navigate this complicated world. No one does it better. You make the impossible happen and make personal sacrifices in the name of this great organization. As my second year here begins, I am so proud of what we have accomplished together already, and am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.