News

Did Lauer’s Super Bowl Ad Cameo Blur Lines?

Academics who study television journalism say "Today" host Matt Lauer's appearance in a Super Bowl advertisement reflects changing standards in the profession and the unique role morning-show hosts occupy.

Mr. Lauer, who interviewed President Barack Obama as part of NBC’s pre-game coverage, popped up again during the game Sunday, not in news coverage, but in an ad for Universal Pictures’ upcoming Will Ferrell film “Land of the Lost.” NBC and Universal Pictures are corporate siblings at NBC Universal.

In the beginning of the ad, Mr. Lauer is seen on a “Today”-like set interviewing paleontologist Rick Marshall, played by Ferrell.

“We are back now with Dr. Rick Marshall, whose new book arrives in stores tomorrow,” says Mr. Lauer, who is so skeptical about the doctor’s “time warps” theory that he refuses to shake the doctor’s hand.

Later in the ad, Mr. Ferrell’s character is seen in an alternate universe fighting off dinosaurs and other monsters.

“Do you know what this means?” screams a woman in the film, realizing the controversial “time warps” theory has been proved true.

“Yes,” responds Mr. Ferrell’s character. “Matt Lauer can eat it.”

Journalism ethics experts usually oppose journalists appearing in advertising, suggesting it can confuse the public and potentially detract from a journalist’s credibility and objectivity. NBC News has a policy that bars its talent from endorsing products in advertising.

A “Today” spokeswoman said Mr. Lauer wasn’t paid for his cameo in the movie and that Universal used parts of the scene in the ad.

She referred questions on whether Mr. Lauer would appear in future spots for the picture to Universal Pictures, which didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute, a group that studies journalism, said that though the morning news shows at ABC, NBC and CBS are produced by the network news departments, it’s not entirely clear that their anchors are journalists.

“What I have is a lot of questions,” she said of the ad. “To start with, I am not sure with the morning shows if I would consider their host as news people or entertainment people. They do a lot of thing that you would never condone if you were a journalist. The line between advertising and content on morning shows is pretty blurry.”

Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said some of the old rules about what you can and can’t do may be fading, especially for network morning shows.

"In the old days, most prominent journalists would have shied away from promoting a movie in a commercial," Mr. Sabato said. "But the rules have changed. TV newsmen are interchangeable to a great degree with Hollywood celebrities. They’re all famous and make boatloads of money. And they help each other out, peer to peer."

(Editor: Baumann. Updated 9 a.m. 2/3 to clarify that Lauer cameo is in movie.)

Comments (9)

Kip Rudge:

You're kidding, right? Someone is upset because TV news guys are going Hollywood? LOL. That suggests the concept that there is any depth or professionalism in broadcast news. Oh please... my sides are hurting... I'm afraid the tears of laughter will get into my keyboard and short it out... Seriously, anyone who watches network news already knows those people are all frustrated actors and game show hosts. It is abundantly clear in the work they do every day. Wrong facts, lack of context and transparent biases long ago shredded any claim to be called journalists from those folks.
Matt Lauer is simply doing what he does best in the movie - acting like a reporter.
Oh lord, what a wonder joke!! You guys just crack me up!

Teresa Ambord:

To the previous poster, Kip Rudge... I think I love you! You could not be more right on. So called-journalists like Lauer long ago lost what credibility they had, so seriously folks, there is no danger he will sink lower.

I can't believe anyone is questioning this, especially about an NBC guy. NBC lead the charge for Obama, not even pretending to be providing us with objective news. ABC and CBS are not far behind in their obvious biases that they don't even try to disguise.

Any suggestion that the lines have blurred is laughable... there are no lines for Lauer and his colleagues, except possibly the line that directly connects him to the Obama administration. Credibility? Hah!

Mark Jeffries:

Documented proof of "biases," wingnut morons--and NewsMax and other wingnut web sites doesn't count.

By the way, wingnuts--who won the election?

And hey Teresa--it must be nice to be a racist. What's your opinion of Latinos, Asian-Americans, Native Americans, Jews, gays and lesbians--as if we didn't already know? And why do you hate your own gender and want to "stay in your place?" Is your dream being gang raped by your idols Loofah Felafel, Rush Vicodin, Sean Insanity, Moron Glenn and Michael Savage Weenie Burger?

Kip Rudge:

Wow Mark, what a thoughtful cogent rebuttal. Did you write that during recess? I find it astounding that Obama supporters/Democrats have the gall the utter the phrase "Who won the election?" Did those four words exist 4 years ago, or 8 years ago? Did you spend the last 8 years whining about Bush as did your political soul mates? Of course you did.
Also none of the names you so maturely butchered make any inference as to being unbiased news sources - unlike NBC and MSNBC.
And since when did not supporting Obama imply racism? Does that mean you hate white folks?

Teresa Ambord:

Mark Jefferies said of my post, "And hey Teresa--it must be nice to be a racist. What's your opinion of Latinos, Asian-Americans, Native Americans, Jews, gays and lesbians--as if we didn't already know? And why do you hate your own gender and want to "stay in your place?" Is your dream being gang raped by your idols Loofah Felafel, Rush Vicodin, Sean Insanity, Moron Glenn and Michael Savage Weenie Burger?

After I read his foaming-at-the-mouth ranting I reread my post to see where he got the "racist, hate your own gender, stay in your place" crappola. Beats me! I guess Mark Jeffries thinks anyone who disagrees with him has to be a racist and a self-hater. Pity him. He's an Obama worshipping loon.

Teresa Ambord:

Hang tight America... Mark Jeffries may be an example of what we're in for from the Obama worshippers. Heaven knows we've add plenty of that childishness for the last eight years from Bush haters. People who cannot tolerate a difference of opinion throw insults that don't make sense. I guess since Obama won the election we're all supposed to worship him now... like Mark worshipped Bush? I suspect he was one of those who went around throwing food at Republicans and slashing their tires.

Mercedes Martinez:

Wow Mark! Is this what we have to look forward to from Obama supporters? Could you really be saying that anyone who disagrees with Obama has to adore him now, just because he won? As Kip pointed out, Bush won... did you fall down and adore him and support everything he did just because he won?

I suspect Mark Jeffries is about 14 years old or younger. Mark, you have some serious growing up to do.

Are there some more reasonable Democrats out there who will speak up and tell Mark that this is still a free country and nobody has to agree with Obama... just because he won? Or do all Democrats think this way? I doubt it. The Dems I know are mostly good, reasonable people. Let's hear from some.

A.H.J. Drew:

Whoa! Mark, Mark, Mark! I read your comments then had to read Teresa's to find out what she said that incited such a flurry of childish name-calling. I must admit... I'm stumped. Nothing she or Kip said in any way connects to the "racist" or "gender hating" labels you slapped on. Are you sure you weren't responding to some other post?

Mark... it's called "conversation." One person says something, then someone else responds, and back and forth. By jumping to name calling, especially when there doesn't appear to be any basis for it, is what happens in elementary school. Then again, I've seen an awful lot of that silliness recently. It doesn't speak well of you Mark, or your party. I agree with a previous poster... my Dem friends are overall intelligent, thoughtful people with whom I heartily disagree. We have actual conversations, with an exchange of ideas, not childish names. Step back a bit Mark. Get a rabies shot.

Cody:

It's a question of journalism ethics. Matt Lauer... go back to school sir

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