That’s the angle from the New York Times today. The speculation is that Shapiro is jumping before being forced out. This raises some interesting questions…
- So far Tom Touchet and now, apparently, Neal Shapiro are taking the fall for the decline in Today’s ratings. But is the blame justified? Everything that has been done to Today had to have been run past Jeff Zucker. Zucker has been rumored to be spending lots of time in Today’s control room (I have to ask why? What can he do there at that point in a given day’s show development? Today isn’t some free floating format…everything’s planned out in advance before airtime and only the “news” changes…if it changes. Zucker being in the control room isn’t going to affect that. So why bother?). At some point, if things don’t improve, Zucker has to be held accountable.
- Is it smart for Zucker to put NBC News in turmoil at this given time? CBS News is in tatters after Memogate (particularly after the whitewashing of Andrew Heyward’s alleged role in the affair). ABC News is also unbalanced with Koppel leaving Nightline, Peter Jennings on the shelf, and This Week getting pounded in some markets by FOX’s Sunday program. NBC News, Today’s decline nonwithstanding, has been relatively stable by comparison. NBC Nightly News made a seamless transition from Tom Brokaw to Brian Williams. MSNBC has stabilized its format under Rick Kaplan…though that hasn’t translated into an improvement in the ratings as of yet. Shapiro leaving, whether “allowed” or being “forced”, puts a cloud over the future at a time when NBC could take advantage of its competition’s comparative weaknesses.
- Will Zucker look to MSNBC and Rick Kaplan to take over? Phil Griffin was plucked from MSNBC to head Today. Could the same thing happen to Kaplan? And if it does, would that destabilize MSNBC again? If it doesn’t happen, will the new NBC News Chief and Zucker want to “adjust” MSNBC again?
The shockwaves of Shapiro’s “impending departure” are just starting. Depending on who comes in and what he/she does, those shockwaves could be tepid or they could be massive. It’s too soon to tell which though.