Is Norah O’Donnell’s Defection from NBC the Biggest for the Network in Nearly Two Decades? Quite Possibly…

The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that Norah O’Donnell’s departure to CBS may be the biggest defection NBC has endured in nearly two decades – since Brian Ross jumped to ABC in 1994…and certainly since Chris Wallace jumped to ABC a few years before that.

I know, I know…”What about Katie Couric? What about Soledad O’Brien? What about Campbell Brown?” The difference between those defections and O’Donnell’s is how it impacts NBC long term. There was little to no collateral damage done to NBC when Couric, O’Brien, and Brown left. Today and Weekend Today easily survived and flourished. But O’Donnell’s departure creates a long term hole for NBC to address – who will succeed Andrea Mitchell?

There’s no shortage of male TV talent “power centers” in D.C. The prototype model was the late Tim Russert, someone who knew D.C inside out and had a Rolodex the size of an appropriations bill.

But number of female TV talent power centers in D.C. is, unfortunately, still woefully small. You probably know the names by heart; Mitchell, Ifill, Amanpour, Sawyer, and (at one time before she became firmly entrenched with 60 Minutes) Stahl. If you’re in a generous mood you could add Candy Crowley as well.

For the last 12 years, O’Donnell has been quietly building up a reputation as the next big female TV talent D.C. power center. She came to NBC from Roll Call and made all the stops necessary in the evolution of a journalist from reporter to power center; Capitol Hill, the Pentagon, the White House, the D.C. party circuit. You can’t put a price tag on those kind of credentials.

I’m still at a loss as to why NBC didn’t see this coming. After losing her daily MSNBC show two years ago, O’Donnell’s profile at NBC inexplicably dropped. Was NBC too concerned about the short term and wasn’t thinking enough about the long term? Could be. Whatever the reason, it opened the door for CBS to swoop in and make an offer NBC could not match having made commitments to others previously that, for the moment, froze O’Donnell out from taking a higher profile position at the network. NBC let her go because it couldn’t keep her. It hadn’t taken the time to establish a career path for O’Donnell that would ensure her continued commitment to the network. NBC dropped the ball. It had the next Andrea Mitchell (figuratively) waiting in the wings for the day Mitchell did retire. And it dropped the ball.

With CBS, O’Donnell has the position she should have had by now at NBC. She will flourish in that environment at CBS and now, instead of being on the path to succeed Mitchell, she will now be on the path to one day succeed Stahl.

That’s fine for CBS. But what of NBC? Who will succeed Mitchell? You can’t just drop in anyone on short notice and expect it to work. It takes years to build up a reputation like that because when you’re operating at the level of a Mitchell, Ifill, Amanpopur, Stahl, or Crowley your D.C. reputation is everything. Nobody on NBC’s payroll currently fits or comes close to fitting that bill, at least on the female side of NBC’s roster. There are ones who might be able to do it but NBC doesn’t currently have them on a career path that goes in that direction (succeeding Mitchell). And that’s why NBC losing O’Donnell, and her reputation in D.C., is such a big deal. She was the obvious choice.

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40 Responses to “Is Norah O’Donnell’s Defection from NBC the Biggest for the Network in Nearly Two Decades? Quite Possibly…”

  1. whitneymuse Says:

    Two memorable personalities go: Erin Burnett and Nora O. ?
    Think of those that they did not take. The left behind now, feel better, I’m sure.

  2. joeremi Says:

    Gone to bigger things…that I won’t see. I don’t watch broadcast network news ’cause I already have cable news on all the time; I don’t watch network morning shows because they’re awful; and I rarely watch Face The Nation. I’ll miss her awesome laugh.

  3. The development of a strong team starts with management setting its individual team members up for success. NBC, perhaps inadvertently, set Nora O’Donnell up for failure. Smaller scale, for surfe, but still every bit as dumb as was the announcement – made at the peak of Jay Leno’s success – that Conan O’Brien would take over the Tonight Show five years hence.

    Good for O’Donnell. Pluck that peacock.

  4. starbroker Says:

    Norah is viewed as a big loss? I’d say its getting rid of dead weight.

    Norah certainly shows her lack of IQ on Morning Joe alot….not to mention her extreme bias.

    This is the same woman who while covering the 2000 campaign said Bush rushed back to Texas to murder this guy. It wasn’t to carry out the death sentence. It was “murder”.

    This is the same woman who a month ago claimed the NY Times and Washington Post weren’t biased.

    I think its absolutely hilarious someone would think losing Norah is a big loss.

    This is the woman who compared the people who were opposed to the Mosque at Ground Zero with those who killed the 3,000 people there!

    But this right here really sums up the stupidity of Norah:

    At the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, Thursday, the former House Speaker commented that “shooting three-point shots may be clever, but it doesn’t put anybody to work.”

    So how does Norah take this?! =) Its RACIST of course!

    But I’m not sure what he means by this particular soundbite and I think it’s open to some criticism because it suggests that the President is an athlete and some people may suggest, you know, because all black people are good athletes. I mean that’s what it sort of sounds like to me. (N O)

    Her intellectual capacity sounds right up there with Paris Hilton or Meghan McCain. But this woman is a big loss to NBC.

    As Stossell would say: GIVE ME A BREAK!

  5. Give us ALL a break, you hack tool.

  6. As if SB’s whole post wasn’t whiny enough, they end it with a quote from the abominable John Stossel. Wasn’t he the one who got that open hand slap from a big pro wrestler, and ran away like a schoolgirl? He’s also the one who pretended to be a bum and beg for change on the street… and hosted fake debates between Republican presidential candidates and a fake Obama. Just saying…

    Anyway, I’m very disappointed with Norah leaving… she was a great DC journalist, and I was hoping she’d replace Savannah on Daily Rundown. Now, she’s long gone, but for a better well-deserved position. She was getting shafted by NBC News. What the hell is wrong with Steve Capus?

  7. ProgLib…you just stepped in it with the Stossel head slap comment. Stossel permanently lost some hearing as a result of of that incident. The WWF fired Dave Schultz for it, and his career was all but over after that, but Stossel ended up suing. I don’t know if he won or not.

  8. The suit ended up in a settlement. Stossel walked away with a little under half a mil.

  9. Proggers doesn’t know what he’s talking about? Meh, that’s just a typical Friday. I’m sure the last time a 6′-6″, 275 pound professional wrestler slapped the taste out of Proggers mouth he got right back up in his grill.

    Anyway, I guess Norah is a good DC reporter. If you think playing hardball with 12-year-old Palin supporters and calling people racists because POTUS is athletic is good DC reporting.

  10. joeremi Says:

    I’m not a fan of Stossel, but as I recall he didn’t bolt until the second head slap knocked him to the ground. I would’ve been gone after the first one, and it would have been a wise decision.

  11. starbroker Says:

    CJ:

    How could I have forgotten about Norah (with Palin notes in hand) ambushing teenage Palin supporters. Oy Vay!

    http://redwhiteandconservative.wordpress.com/2009/11/20/the-day-i-met-sarah-palin-and-the-liberal-media/

    And of course John ZIegler just tearing the clueless Norah a new one:

    http://johnziegler.com/editorials_details.asp?editorial=186

  12. missy5537 Says:

    I can’t see how losing Norah is a loss at all. She is biased for sure, and I stopped watching her years ago.

  13. So a bunch of righties who think anything not conservative is biased – people who don’t watch the network she worked for – consider her no great loss. Got it.

  14. Hey joeremi maybe you didn’t get the memo but journalists aren’t supposed to be biased regardless of who they work for.

    I know. I’m a “rightie,” I watch Fox News, blah blah blah, I’ve heard them all before. I’m sure you can find a few other lies and insults to cover the fact that you don’t seem to want to discuss the criticism towards Norah O’Donnell.

  15. I’m currently watching FBN’s Bulls and Bears and David Asman isn’t even trying to disguise which side he’s on.

    BTW, Joe’s got a point. Most of the criticism leveled against O’Donnell is leveled at her by ideologues and FNC viewers…two not exactly impartial groups in what they criticize and how they go about it (see SB’s characterization for O’Donnell “ambushing” someone who agreed to be interviewed as an example). I don’t give that a lot of weight similarly to how I don’t give a lot of weight to the ideologues and MSNBC/CNN viewers that criticize FNC.

    A lot of their explanations for describing what happened, why it happened, and how it happened tend to be grounded in their ideology…though they don’t see it (nor could they since they’re ideologues). But it means we’re not getting the story of what happened but their interpretation of what happened, complete with snide commentary which further taints the story (and undermines their case). If your case is solid you have the facts on your side. You don’t need to spin and embellish. That’s a nuance ideologically partisan media criitics have never understood.

  16. stevemg Says:

    ^However, Spud, you yourself have commented several times about how the more open ideological broadcasting at MSNBC had affected/tarnished/colored (can’t recall your exact words) the NBC/MSNBC news brand and that the real reporters over there should have spoken up. Or more of them, e.g., Brokaw.

    And, from that, aren’t there legitimate questions to be raised when a reporter from a more openly partisan cable network – MSNBC or Fox – goes to the networks?

    To be sure, our conservative friends are probably motivated by less than pure intentions. But they do raise a general question that you yourself have made.

  17. Spud, I believe the “ambush” part comes in when Norah O’Donnell pulls out the talking points in an attempt to make a teenage girl look dumb, which I’m sure will be backed up by witty comebacks like “She’s a Palin supporter, she already is dumb,”. Yawn. In any event O’Donnell was clearly looking for someone to embarrass. Solid journalistic standards from CBS’ new correspondent.

  18. stevemg Says:

    ^I think it’s a fair point even if the questioner’s motives are, well, questionable.

    We all know that MSNBC has taken a more openly partisan tone. We see that not only with the commentators but their reporters or anchors. The blurring between opinion and news over there has increased. If it’s still there at all.

    Hasn’t O’Donnell gone along with this change? Isn’t there evidence that she did? Evidence as in this case?

    Call those raising the matter partisans or ideologues. But only after refuting them.

  19. joeremi Says:

    “The MSM has a liberal bias!” “Fox lies!” It’s all Godawful BORING.

  20. ^ Just want to point out that I am one of those “righties” who watches Fox News and commented here I don’t think I criticised Ms. O’Donnell even a wee little bit.

  21. May I have an “edit’ button, please? I’ll gladly offer Joe’s kingdom for one. The idiot.

  22. joeremi Says:

    Someone please give Al an “edit” button. He’s a jerk.

  23. danoregon Says:

    CBS needed some new folks, considering that much of its top tier is 60 and over and could be retired in the next five years.

  24. Yes, Norah is a bit of a dolt…but what else is new on the MSM front. When the Washington Media voted last time to the tune of 93 for Obama to 7 McCain….we at least know where they come from and what they are up to. Acting as Obamas Praetorian Guard to keep the plebes at bay.

  25. The weekend has begun..

  26. ProgLib…you just stepped in it with the Stossel head slap comment. Stossel permanently lost some hearing as a result of of that incident.

    I had no idea that resulted from the slap, and I wouldn’t have brought it up if I knew that was the case. But it still doesn’t excuse his radical behavior and years of ridiculous comments. He’s just a strange man with a need to get attention with strange gimmicks.

  27. Proggers doesn’t know what he’s talking about? Meh, that’s just a typical Friday. I’m sure the last time a 6′-6″, 275 pound professional wrestler slapped the taste out of Proggers mouth he got right back up in his grill.

    For your information, I’ve never run away from a fight in my life, so you shouldn’t baselessly assume I’d react in a wimpy way, like you would. As for myself, I’m 6′-1” 190 lbs, and I train at the level of the usual Marine and Navy Seal, combined. I have also taken part in boxing, self defense and submission training. So, I know all about the size of a man not having everything to do with what you can accomplish in a fight.

    Not bragging, just saying…

  28. However, Spud, you yourself have commented several times about how the more open ideological broadcasting at MSNBC had affected/tarnished/colored (can’t recall your exact words) the NBC/MSNBC news brand and that the real reporters over there should have spoken up. Or more of them, e.g., Brokaw.

    Yes but the difference is I don’t carry the baggage of years of ideological talk and openly partisan channel bashing. I don’t make it my mission in life to nail a network for every little thing it does that may or may not be questionable like NewBusters, Media Matters, Newshounds and others do.. I pick and choose my targets very carefully.

    I have been very critical of opinionizing without attribution of motivation by dayside news anchors. I’m becoming increasingly concerned about what Martin Bashir is doing because his show isn’t being pitched as an opinion show but a news/newsmaker interview show. But it clearly is more than that and the lines are very blurred.

    Spud, I believe the “ambush” part comes in when Norah O’Donnell pulls out the talking points in an attempt to make a teenage girl look dumb, which I’m sure will be backed up by witty comebacks like “She’s a Palin supporter, she already is dumb,”.

    I read her version of the story via SB’s link and your characterization of the events that occurred don’t line up with hers, nevermind the fact that hers is riddled with red flags.

  29. starbroker Says:

    Funny, even a source like Mediaite (which doesn’t have one conservative on the staff) says:

    http://www.mediaite.com/online/palin-supporter-grilled-by-norah-odonnell-responds/

    -No matter your political beliefs, this feels like a borderline-ambush interview. With the widely-held view of MSNBC as a liberal network (based on its prime time programming), this tone and style seeping into news coverage mirrors what many on the left claim Fox News is guilty of. This will provide more fodder to those who feel MSNBC is unfair to conservatives

    But then why should we expect ICN to be unbiased about this? I mean, he wants Norah to be another Andrea “rednecks in West Virginia” Mitchell. She’s one of the worst at that network. She masquerades as a newsperson.

    Perhaps one could give Norah a pass for her “ambush” interview, if Norah didn’t have a LONG LONG history of anti-Palin bias.

  30. anti-Palin bias

    Other wise known as knowing a dumbass when you see one. “The Americans are coming! The Americans are coming! Ring them bells!”

  31. […] post first appeared on Inside Cable News and appears on Mediaite via a content sharing […]

  32. I pick and choose my targets very carefully.

    Absolutely. Anyone (well, any fair minded person) reading this blog finds out pretty quickly that there’s no political agenda behind your criticism. I’ve been reading ICN for more than two-three years and I have no idea what your own political views are. Not a clue.

    Anyway, the point that’s been made – you made it first here – was that when these networks, especially MSNBC, became more openly partisan and started to erase the line between fact and opinion (dayside/prime time shows for example) that the straight news reporters should have spoken up about it. And not just go along with the changes. Whether O’Donnell was a big enough player to pipe up can be asked. Or maybe she did object but kept it interally. Or maybe she was the proverbial dog that didn’t bark, i.e, agreed with the changes.

    Just as with a journalist who goes from, say, The Nation or National Review or any opinion magazine to a straight news organization, there’s going be questions – fair and not – about that hiring. And also about that person’s previous journalism. It’s inevitable even if it’s motivated by partisans.

    Too wordy; didn’t have time to make it read better.

    As with others I’m sure, we appreciate the site and your efforts.

  33. Other wise known as knowing a dumbass when you see one.

    So, Joe, anything goes? Whatever the press does in covering Palin is fine? Balance, objectivity, fairness? All can be tossed aside?

    Not much of an argument against the complaint of biased coverge of her.

  34. Funny, even a source like Mediaite (which doesn’t have one conservative on the staff) says:

    That’s a mis-use of the term “ambush” as far as interviews are concerned. Ambush interviewing means to come upon someone unawares and try to interview them whether they want it or not (see 60 Minutes, Jesse Watters, et al.).

    That did not happen here. The teenager was asked if she wanted to be interviewed and she said yes. You can’t call it an ambush interview after that point. Was she sandbagged or otherwise part of a gotcha type interview? Maybe.

    In any event, this wasn’t big bad Norah O’Donnell picking on some poor innocent deer in the headlights child. It was O’Donnell interviewing a teenage girl who clearly had read up on Palin, knew the talking points (ACORN, MSNBC can’t be trusted, etc) and walked into it with her eyes wide open. Not an ambush.

  35. starbroker Says:

    I hope even ICN will admit….if NBC/WSJ didn’t ask specifically if Republicans are uncomfortable with FNC people…. and Norah just made this up….. that ICN will admit Norah is a biased hack who doesn’t belong on air:

    http://www.mediaite.com/tv/norah-odonnell-gop-voters-more-uncomfortable-with-a-fox-commentator-than-a-mormon/

    If as Mediaite points out– FNC viewers just don’t like Newt or Rick– then who cares. I can’t stand Newt. I hope Ailes doesn’t take him back. He was so overpaid at $1M a year. Huckabee should be getting paid more than Newt was. Newt is a joke.

    So if Norah was twisting this poll for a lame attack on FNC– I hope then… an admittance will finally come….

    or as Newsbusters so rightly poijnted out:

    “If Time-magaziner-turned-White House-press-sec Jay Carney ever tires of defending President Obama,” wrote NB’s Mark Finkelstein earlier this year, “Norah O’Donnell clearly seems ready to step in.”

  36. joeremi Says:

    So, Joe, anything goes? Whatever the press does in covering Palin is fine? Balance, objectivity, fairness? All can be tossed aside?

    Of course not. I’m just tired of hearing “Palin unfairly attacked” every time a reporter questions her grasp of the facts.Two-and-a-half years in, and this person hired to contribute to a news channel still doesn’t know anything.

  37. Kelly O’Donnell, who covers politics and Capitol Hill for NBC, I believe is more valuable than Nora.

  38. Folding chairs…

    […]Is Norah O’Donnell’s Defection from NBC the Biggest for the Network in Nearly Two Decades? Quite Possibly… « Inside Cable News[…]…

  39. Boxing Day UK…

    […]Is Norah O’Donnell’s Defection from NBC the Biggest for the Network in Nearly Two Decades? Quite Possibly… « Inside Cable News[…]…

  40. fun pictures…

    […]Is Norah O’Donnell’s Defection from NBC the Biggest for the Network in Nearly Two Decades? Quite Possibly… « Inside Cable News[…]…

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