NBC News’ Capus Plots Post-Russert Era Course

Jun 20, 2008  •  Post A Comment

NBC News President Steve Capus is plotting his division’s course in wake of Tim Russert’s death. But first he wants a few things on the record:
The extensive coverage by NBC and MSNBC of the death and legacy of the “Meet the Press” host? Appropriate.
The instant speculation about and lobbying on behalf of people who might succeed Mr. Russert as moderator of the show? Absolutely inappropriate.
Expectations that a successor to Mr. Russert’s chair on “Meet the Press” will be named any time soon? Unfair.
Mr. Capus is leading his organization out of the tough mourning period and into the even tougher task of replacing the man who was most visible on “Meet the Press” and as the omnipresent chief political analyst throughout the presidential primary of 2007 and 2008.
“I think we’re probably headed to some kind of interim role,” Mr. Capus told TelevisionWeek Thursday afternoon.
“It is too soon” to pick a long-term moderator of what has been the dominant Sunday morning political forum on TV, the NBC news president said. “And it will be too soon for some time to come. It’s unfair to ask anybody to replace Tim. It’s just not the right time.”
Mr. Capus pointed out that NBC News is “an organization that prides itself on transition,” and that it had carefully planned and managed the passing of important torches from Tom Brokaw to Brian Williams as “Nightly News” anchor and from Katie Couric to Meredith Vieira as co-anchor of “Today.”
“Those were planned events,” he said. “Tim Russert had a 12-year contract. None of us thought we’d be in this position. You can’t switch gears and move into that [successor] mode immediately. It would have been wrong to do anything, to start thinking about it before now.”
Asked about the criticism in the media that NBC and MSNBC had devoted an excessive amount of air time to on-air tributes to Mr. Russert after he collapsed and died in the Washington, D.C., bureau June 13, Mr. Capus said, he felt that what his organization did was proportional to what other networks did. He pointed out that Mr. Russert had been a pivotal player on the national scene and beloved by audiences, colleagues, sources and even competitors for two more than two decades.
He mentioned, in particular, the off-air crew of “Meet the Press,” which had produced a tribute edition June 15 that was seen by more than 6.4 million viewers, according to national data from Nielsen Media Research.
“It was one of the best broadcasts in the history of this news division. I give all the credit in the world to [executive producer] Betsy Fischer for that. She did that with great strength and determination and love. Seventeen years she’s known Tim. It was a real tribute to her considerable skills.”
Mr. Capus said the “Meet the Press” camera operators, audio technicians and control room team received tribute after that broadcast from Mr. Russert’s wife, writer Maureen Orth, and his son Luke.
The crew “also, to a person, I think volunteered to work [the Kennedy Center] memorial. That’s how much Tim meant to them. That just doesn’t happen. That kind of devotion, universally, that just doesn’t happen in this day and age,” Mr. Capus said. “For people to feel that strongly and that connected and have this hurt so darn much shouldn’t go without being noted.”
Such widespread response had been appreciated, Mr. Capus said.
“I love that there was this outpouring of support that has contained true and wonderful tributes to Tim. I think that’s just appropriate. I think that’s been great,” he said. Naturally, NBC is going to do a little more, but I don’t we did think proportionally anything that was out of whack with the rest of our colleagues and the other organizations. I see CBS taking out a full-page ad in the paper. We all seem to have come to the same decisions about how much was appropriate. I believe it was the right amount of coverage.”
His voice darkened when he spoke of the rush to speculate about how NBC would replace Mr. Russert on “Meet the Press,” as bureau chief in Washington, and as the political face of NBC News and MSNBC.
“Somebody sent a thing saying ‘I’ve got it confirmed’—which I thought was funny—‘I’ve got it confirmed that you’ve decided A, B, C, D, E, F.’ Six different roles. All untrue,” Mr. Capus said.
He acknowledged that it is time to begin the sad process of making such decisions.
“There are many, many different roles that we need to attempt to fill,” Mr. Capus said. “Nobody is going to be able to fill the informal roles, the guy who was the first on the phone when your mom was sick, the one who knew all your kids’ names and had nicknames for them. But the formal roles we have to start thinking about.”


  1. To everyone in the NBC News Division I send love and support for this most difficult time.
    Peter Bright

  2. “When the Big Man upstairs wants you…there ain’t nothing you can do about it.”
    Rest in Peace, Mr. Russert.
    Press on NBC.

  3. I realise that NBC has lost a great man and that his shoes will be hard to fill. My thoughts and prayers are with the Russert and NBC families.

  4. Dear Mr. Capus,
    Thank you for the exended coverage of Tim Russert’s life and memorial.
    None of us want to let go of him…Perhaps one of your staff could re visit his career on a special weekly Russert spot…how about you?
    Your affect is as Tim’s was. How about it…Maybe spend some time in front of the camera!
    Again, thank you for the coverage.

  5. Like the other journalistic giants before him…yes a replacement will be found but his shoes will never be filled! My sincerest condolences to the Russert family & to NBC on the passing of this great man who lived loving life to the fullest!

  6. My thoughts and prayers go out to you Mr. Capus, his colleagues, and his family. I believe what you have done and are continuing to do are the right choices. No one should expect to fill his
    shoes. We are all individuals, each with are own
    ways of doing things. I am very happy that Tom
    Brokaw will be filling in as I was saddened when he left as anchor to NBC nightly news, however
    I have come to admire and appreciate Brian Williams as well.

  7. Mr. Steve Capus: After watching Meet the Press this morning 7/20/08, you would be well served if David Gregory was put into the moderator’s seat of Meet the Press. I read all of your verbalization concerning Tim Russert whom I admired and arose early in the AM on Sundays to watch his program. However I along with many others will turn off the tube if Brian Williams is selected to moderate the program. We don’t need his type of personality to replace Tim R.
    Play back today’s show. Listen to David Gregory’s inflections and his manner of discussing topics. Then close your eyes and listen to the replay. Gregory sounds like a younger Tom Brokaw speaking. And Tom was excellent at NBC and a true loss to the evening news.
    David has a certain very positive manner in his interactions with people and it is reflected in his work. He would be an excellent choice.

  8. It would be even better served if they got rid of Mr Capus.
    Since he is so obviously in the tank with Obama as reflected by NBC’s on sided view on this campaign.
    We need NBC back with reporters that tell the story, not their personal views.

  9. Mr Russert would not have let Andrea Mitchel get away with lieing about the Saddleback debate.
    McCain did not cheat. Mitchel and NBC seem to be in the toliet for obama.
    Mr Capus, I would get someone who has as much dedication to finding out the truth like Mr Russert.

  10. Three cheer for Steve Capus and the head of MSNBC. It’s about time you got rid of ego driven Chris Matthews and Keith Obermann. First of all Matthews voice is horrifying, like a whining child and he refuses to let people answer questions that he poses to them. I also did not appreciate some of his choice concepts including slang words. The air waves are not the place for ill used terminology.
    So thanks for getting the two overly outspoken ego driven commentators off the main line. And of course David Gregory is an excellent replacement of the other two egotists. I also stated my feeling in a note to Capus that Gregory would be an excellent replacement for the late and missed Tim Russert.

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