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The Insider

Mar 1, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Fact: Consultant Jim Vidakovich was not hired to listen to the gripes of the ever-assertive staffers on NBC’s “Today” show.
Fact: Mr. Vidakovich has been working with NBC for more than two years, most often with NBC’s entertainment division but also occasionally with executives and staffers at NBC News and MSNBC.
He has coached executives before big presentations; coached talent new to the business or to a show before they make promotional appearances or before they meet the press; done some team building and management consulting; and even helped compile a form on which the members of the Television Critics Association were invited to comment on the effectiveness of NBC’s winter TCA sessions.
Fact: You could look up this and more on Trainersinmotion.com, the Web site for Mr. Vidakovich’s company, People Centered Management. There one can find, among other things, his biography, his philosophy, his specialties, his long list of clients (including Lifetime Television, Clorox, Disney and the U.S. Postal Service) and a few testimonials, including one from Rebecca Marks, the senior VP of publicity for NBC Entertainment. Also easy to find on the Web site is his phone, fax or e-mail contact information.
Question: How does Mr. Vidakovich feel about his recent dealings with “Today” staffers and executive producer Tom Touchet being portrayed as either a breaking news flash or a neon sign declaring that the apocalypse is nearing, if not now, for “Today”?
“Bits and pieces of information come out and are totally inaccurate because they are bits and pieces of information,” said Mr. Vidakovich during a break between appointments with non-NBC clients last week.
Mr. Vidakovich did not dish specifics about his contributions at NBC, where he said roughly 80 percent of his time is spent with Entertainment and the remaining 20 percent with News.
He acknowledged working with NBC News President Neal Shapiro and being part of “early” planning conversations for the transition from Tom Brokaw to Brian Williams as “NBC Nightly News” anchor following the November presidential election, but he said: “I am a nonentity when it comes to the big issues.”
The West Coast-based consultant said Mr. Touchet had been asking him to conduct sessions with “Today” staffers since November, but Mr. Vidakovich’s schedule only recently loosened up enough for him to spend the time on the East Coast.
“I am not a Mr. Fix-it,” he said. Nor is he a gunslinger for hire. “The first time you do that, you become that hit man,” said Mr. Vidakovich, who tends to characterize himself as a facilitator.
Those who have seen him in operation often use the word “guru” but they invariably describe him as engaging, even disarming, and as someone whose style is to encourage discussion by asking questions and listening-not by issuing edicts.
“He is not your usual consultant,” said one network source.