NBC Today | Media Matters for America

NBC Today

Tags ››› NBC Today
  • Media failed on climate and extreme weather coverage last year. Will they do better in 2018?

    Al Roker gives us reason to be a bit optimistic

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS

    A version of this post was originally published on Grist.

    Everyone knows that the U.S. got gobsmacked by hurricanes last year. But if you rely on mainstream media for your news, you might not know that climate change had anything to do with it.

    In 2017, the major broadcast TV news programs mentioned climate change only two times total during their coverage of the record-breaking hurricanes that made landfall in the U.S. The climate-hurricane link came up once on CBS, once on NBC, and not at all during ABC's coverage of the storms, Media Matters found. All in all, major TV news programs, radio news programs, and newspapers mentioned climate change in just 4 percent of their stories about last year’s big hurricanes, according to research by Public Citizen. Many major media outlets also neglected to weave climate change into their reporting on 2017's heat waves and wildfires

    Will coverage in 2018 be any better?

    Al Roker has given us reason to feel slightly optimistic. Last week, Roker, the weather forecaster on NBC's Today show, demonstrated one good way to put an extreme weather event into proper context. While discussing the devastating flooding that recently hit Ellicott City, MD, he explained that heavy downpours have become more common in recent decades thanks to climate change, using a map and data from the research group Climate Central:

    As we roll into summer -- the start of the season for hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, and heat waves -- that's just the kind of connect-the-dots reporting we need.

    The New York Times helped set the scene with its recent map-heavy feature on places in the U.S. that have been hit repeatedly by extreme weather. "Climate change is making some kinds of disasters more frequent," the piece explained, and "scientists also contend that climate change is expected to lead to stronger, wetter hurricanes."

    But it's one thing to report on how climate change worsens weather disasters in general, as the Times did in that piece. It's another thing to report on climate change while covering a specific storm or wildfire, as Roker did -- and many journalists still seem to be squeamish about it. They shouldn't be; science has their back. In addition to what we know about the general links between climate change and extreme weather, there's a growing area of climate research, called attribution science, that measures the extent to which climate change has made individual weather events more intense or destructive.

    Consider the research that's been done on Hurricane Harvey, which dumped more than 60 inches of rain on the Houston area this past August. Just four months after the storm, two groups of scientists published attribution studies about it: One study estimated that climate change made Harvey's rainfall 15 percent heavier than it would have been otherwise, while another offered a best estimate of 38 percent.

    Broadcast TV news programs did not report on this research when it came out, but they should have. And the next time a major hurricane looms or makes landfall, media outlets should make note of these and other studies that attribute hurricane intensity to climate change. Scientists can't make these types of attribution analyses in real time (at least not yet), but their research on past storms can help put current and future storms in context.

    Of course, in order to incorporate climate change into hurricane reporting, journalists have to be reporting on hurricanes in the first place. They failed miserably at this basic task when it came to Hurricane Maria and its devastation of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Maria got markedly less media coverage than hurricanes Harvey and Irma, according to analyses by FiveThirtyEight and researchers from the MIT Media Lab. The weekend after Maria made landfall, the five major Sunday morning political talk shows cumulatively spent less than a minute on the storm. And just last week, when a major new study estimated that Maria led to approximately 5,000 deaths in Puerto Rico, as opposed to the government's official death count of 64, cable news gave 16 times more coverage to Roseanne Barr's racist tweet and her canceled TV show than to the study.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Hurricane Maria overwhelmingly harmed people of color -- Puerto Rico's population is 99 percent Latino and the U.S. Virgin Islands' population is 98 percent Black or African-American -- so it's hard not to see race as a factor in the undercoverage of the storm. The authors of the MIT Media analysis attributed the lack of coverage to a “cultural gap” and suggested that more minorities working in media might have alleviated the problem. Not only are minorities less likely to be employed in newsrooms; they're also less likely to be included in media discussions of climate change.

    The lack of reporting on Maria sets a scary precedent, as climate disasters are expected to hurt minority and low-income communities more than whiter, wealthier ones. Unless mainstream media step up their game, the people hurt the most by climate change will be covered the least.

    Ultimately, we need the media to help all people understand that climate change is not some distant phenomenon that might affect their grandkids or people in faraway parts of the world. Only 45 percent of Americans believe climate change will pose a serious threat to them during their lifetimes, according to a recent Gallup poll. That means the majority of Americans still don't get it.

    When journalists report on the science that connects climate change to harsher storms and more extreme weather events, they help people understand climate change at a more visceral level. It's happening here, now, today, to all of us. That's the story that needs to be told.

  • The morning after Florida shooting, elected GOP officials appeared on only one show: Fox & Friends

    No elected GOP officials appeared on morning shows on CNN, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, or CBS. Chris Cuomo: Republicans "wouldn’t even come on the damn show.”

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    The morning after yet another deadly school shooting in the United States, Republican elected officials avoided all but one morning news show: Fox & Friends.

    Yesterday, a shooting at a Florida school left at least 17 students and adults dead. It was the 18th shooting at a school in the U.S. just this year. Today, Republican elected officials avoided ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and MSNBC’s morning shows, opting to exclusively appear on Fox & Friends. Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott and Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) all appeared on Fox to discuss the shooting. Cruz attempted to explain the shooting by saying, “Evil is, sadly, always present” and complained that “the reaction of Democrats to any tragedy to is try to politicize it.” Rubio referred to the shooting as “an isolated instance” that resulted from “a perfect storm of circumstances.” And Scott told the Fox & Friends hosts that he was “mad” and asked, “How can this be going on in our society?” Democratic Florida Sen. Bill Nelson also appeared on Fox & Friends to discuss the shooting.

    Meanwhile, no Republican elected officials appeared on any other broadcast and major cable news channel. CNN host Chris Cuomo noted that it was not for lack of trying, saying that Republicans “wouldn’t even come on the damn show” to talk about the shooting in Florida:

    In the aftermath of past mass shootings, Fox News has provided a platform for Second Amendment advocates to push misinformation about firearms while repeatedly asserting that the aftermath of a mass shooting is “not the time” to talk about policy solutions to address gun violence.

  • 17 disturbing warning signs NBC ignored from Matt Lauer

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN & GRACE BENNETT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    NBC News announced on November 29 that it fired Today host Matt Lauer after “a detailed complaint” was filed about "inappropriate sexual behavior that took place during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.” The complaint also noted that Lauer’s “alleged behavior continued in the workplace after the games.” Lauer has a well-documented history of disturbing and sexist behavior that should have served as a warning sign to management long before this recent investigation took place. Here are just a few examples:

    1. According to The New York Times Magazine, Lauer was part of “the boys’ club atmosphere behind the scenes” at Today, which Curry said “undermined her from the start” and was partially responsible for pushing her out in 2013.

    2. In 2012, former Today host Katie Couric told Andy Cohen that Lauer’s most “annoying” trait was that he “pinch[ed] me on the ass a lot.”

    3. In 2006, according to video footage on TMZ, Lauer told Meredith Vieira to "Keep bending over like that. It's a nice view," during a commerical break.

    4. According to HuffPost, Lauer acted incredibly skeezy during a 2014 interview with then-18-year-old skier Mikaela Shiffrin.

    5. In a 2012 interview with actress Anne Hathaway, Lauer started off by discussing a wardrobe malfunction of hers, telling Hathaway he had “seen a lot of you lately.”

    6. Lauer, then in his late 40s, told singer Kelly Clarkson that she had a “hot new look.” When Clarkson, who was in her early 20s at the time, responded by asking “I have a hot new look?” Lauer replied, “Well, I'm back from vacation and you got my attention, I'll tell you that.”

    7. During an interview with Pippa Middleton, Lauer focused on the “very flattering” dress she wore to her sister’s wedding and the way it fit her, saying, “I thought it was the best of British pomp and circumstance.”

    8. During an interview with Lauer earlier this year, actor Corey Feldman discussed child molestation in Hollywood, including his own experience of abuse. In response, Lauer questioned Feldman’s culpability in the matter, asking why he didn’t come forward sooner: “Why are you sitting down talking to me? Why aren’t you sitting down with the police right now?” Feldman replied, “I’m the victim here. I’m the one who’s been abused. I’m the one who’s trying to come forward and do something about it.”

    9. During a 2008 “roast” of Lauer, he misogynistically joked about sleeping with his former co-hosts Katie Couric and Ann Curry, asking, “What’s with all the small-dick jokes? It was fun to look over and see Ann Curry laughing … like she doesn’t know how big my dick really is.”  

    10. In 2012, Lauer was part of an incredibly distasteful mockumentary on sexual harassment at Today, where he said he was the “real victim” after co-host Willie Geist jokingly touched him inappropriately.

    11. In a 2014 sketch, Lauer pretended to flash his colleagues, urging his female colleagues to “drink it in, ladies.”

    12. In September, Lauer, who reportedly had notable influence over which stories appeared on Today, interviewed serial sexual predator Bill O’Reilly, giving him a platform to attack a woman who had reported him for harassment and deny knowledge about the multiple settlements he’d reached for misconduct.

    13. During an interview with GM chief executive Mary Barra in 2014, Lauer asked her if she thought she could do a good job at being both a high-powered executive and a mother.

    14. During a 2015 interview with musician Adele, Lauer questioned whether she was “concerned at all that now, with the explosion of this album, that you're going to have to get back on that career treadmill and have less time to dedicate” to her young son.

    15. During a national security forum during the 2016 presidential campaign, Lauer “behaved toward the presidential candidates in a way that was consistent with much of the research about gender stereotypes and discrimination,” according to the Harvard Business Review. Specifically, Lauer “interrupted Clinton more often than Trump, asked her more challenging questions, and questioned her statements more often.”

    16. During the same forum, Lauer failed to push back on then-candidate Donald Trump’s assertion that is was “correct” to claim that rape should be “expected” when men and women both serve in the military.  

    17. While reporting on the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Lauer referred to Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen as one of Brazil’s “most recognizable exports.”

    A TMZ report initially identified the woman in the third bullet as Katie Couric. TMZ now reports it was Meredith Vieria. This piece has been updated accordingly.

  • Matt Lauer is the fourth NBCUniversal employee to be publicly named for sexual misconduct in recent weeks

    Matt Lauer's misogyny was no secret

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Early this morning, a now-familiar pattern of events unfolded: A prominent media figure was named as a reported perpetrator of sexual misconduct and reporters from other outlets quickly confirmed they’d been working on stories about it. This time it was NBC’s Matt Lauer, and no one seemed surprised -- particularly because the network has been very publicly struggling to adequately address sexual harassment and misogyny for over a year now.

    On November 29, Today co-host Savannah Guthrie, seated next to colleague Hoda Kotb, announced that NBC had terminated Lauer after receiving a “detailed complaint about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.” The statement from NBC News chairman Andy Lack, from which Guthrie read on-air, also stated that the network had reason to believe the report was not an isolated incident.

    Almost immediately, several reporters confirmed that they’d been working on investigations of Lauer or were aware of investigations and that NBC knew about the coming stories as well. At least one reporter, Yashar Ali, said he’d spoken with women privately about Lauer even before The New York Times published its first story on reports of harassment and assault by Harvey Weinstein in early October.

    Lauer’s misogyny was certainly no secret, either -- he had publicly berated women, victim-blamed, and reinforced sexist stereotypes in interviews before. In 2012, when former co-host Ann Curry was reportedly pushed out of the network, Lauer and the “boys’ club atmosphere” at Today were implicated.

    And in September, Lauer interviewed serial sexual predator Bill O’Reilly, giving him space to attack a woman who had reported him for harassment and deny knowledge about the multiple settlements he’d reached for misconduct. NBC’s decision to give Lauer and O’Reilly an 8 a.m. slot to broadcast such an insulting conversation to more than 4 million people -- predominantly women, who are likely to have themselves experienced workplace sexual harassment -- was still far from the first time NBC has struggled to send the right message on sexual misconduct.

    Lauer is the fourth NBCUniversal employee to be publicly named for sexual misconduct -- in the case of Lauer, reported assault -- since the Weinstein reports. Earlier in November, Variety wrote that Matt Zimmerman, the senior vice president of booking for NBC News who oversaw the department that likely invited O’Reilly to appear on Today, had been fired following reports he’d “engaged in inappropriate conduct with more than one woman at NBCU.”

    On October 26, two different NBCUniversal employees were publicly reported for workplace sexual harassment: Mark Halperin and Ken Baker. Baker, a correspondent for the NBC-owned E! News, is currently off the air pending an internal investigation into multiple reports of inappropriate text messages and an unwanted kiss. Halperin, who was an MSNBC contributor and NBC News analyst, was fired following a flood of reports detailing serial sexual harassment and assault while he worked at ABC News.  

    NBC has also notoriously maintained silence on several reports related to harassment and assault by powerful men outside of its offices. Freelance NBC News correspondent Ronan Farrow publicly called out his employer for passing on his months-long investigation into multiple reports of harassment and assault by Weinstein; the piece eventually ran in The New Yorker.

    Last fall, the network sat on the Access Hollywood footage depicting President Donald Trump bragging about committing sexual assault and was eventually scooped by another outlet. It subsequently waffled on firing its own employee, Billy Bush, for his participation in the damning exchange.

    NBC is now among the list of media outlets that must grapple with reporting on sexual misconduct by its own employees. Addressing the reports against Lauer -- which seem likely to grow in number -- and the behavior he exhibited behind-the-scenes at NBC for decades gives the network an opportunity to change its course. It remains to be seen if NBC will take this chance to begin sending better messages to its employees and viewers about who and what it will value and protect.

  • Morning news shows ignored report that Trump’s FCC plans to roll back net neutrality

    Only CBS This Morning reported on the FCC commissioner's plan to overturn Obama-era net neutrality protections

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    Cable and broadcast morning shows virtually ignored reports that the Republican-appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai, is expected to reveal his plan to gut net neutrality regulations this week.

    According to the internet advocacy organization Free Press, net neutrality is "the basic principle that prohibits internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from speeding up, slowing down or blocking any content, applications or websites you want to use." In 2015, the FCC enacted regulations protecting net neutrality, "reclassif[ying] high-speed Internet as a telecommunications service rather than an information one, subjecting providers to regulation under Title II of the Communications Act."

    But as Politico reported on November 20, FCC Chairman Pai, an appointee of President Donald Trump, plans to share a scheme with his fellow commissioners today to dismantle the regulations. The commission is expected to vote in December on the plan, which reportedly "would jettison rules that prohibit internet service providers from blocking or slowing web traffic or creating so-called paid internet fast lanes."

    On November 21, morning news shows failed to inform their audiences about the threat to a free and open internet. CBS This Morning was the only show to feature a report on the development. One guest on MSNBC's Morning Joe briefly mentioned the expected rule change, but the hosts didn't engage with the comment and never brought up the story themselves. There was no mention at all of net neutrality from CNN's New Day, Fox News' Fox & Friends, ABC's Good Morning America, or NBC's Today.

    From CBS This Morning:

    GAYLE KING (HOST): The New York Times says the FCC is planning a repeal of net neutrality rules created during the Obama era. The proposal is expected to be unveiled later today. Internet service providers would no longer be required to give equal access to all content. It would permit them to slow web traffic or charge more to view certain content. FCC commissioners are expected to back the proposal in December. The FCC declined to comment on this.

    The move from the FCC was not unforeseeable; in April, Pai announced plans to undo open-internet rules. And, as Wired detailed, "Pai has narrowed the scope of the rules since taking over as chair in January":

    In February, for example, he ended an investigation into whether AT&T and Verizon used data limits for anticompetitive purposes, effectively ruling that the two companies could exempt their own video services from customers' data caps but still charge for data used by their competitors’ services.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of “neutrality” on the November 21 editions of ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS’ CBS This Morning, NBC’s Today, CNN’s New Day, Fox News’ Fox & Friends, and MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

  • Morning shows virtually ignored the truck bombing in Somalia

    Mogadishu bombing is one of the world’s most deadly terror attacks in recent years

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On Saturday, at least 300 people were killed and several hundreds more were injured after a truck bombing occurred in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. The attack, which the Somali government believes was carried out by the Al Qaeda-linked group al-Shabab, has been called “one of the most lethal terrorist acts anywhere in the world for many years.” Al-Shabab has not yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Somali capital has been a frequent target for the group for a decade.

    Despite the magnitude and death toll of the attack, Sunday political talk shows on ABC, CBS, Fox Broadcasting, CNN, and NBC failed to cover the attack entirely, and the Monday morning cable and broadcast shows spent a total of just over two minutes reporting on the attack in brief news updates, with the longest single report, just 28 seconds, airing on NBC’s Today. The Monday morning broadcast shows spent a combined one minute and 15 seconds on the attack, and the cable news shows spent a combined 52 seconds on the attack. MSNBC’s Morning Joe did not cover the bombing in Somalia at all.

    Methodology:

    Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of “bomb,” “truck,” and “Somalia” on the October 15 editions of CNN’s State of the Union, ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, NBC’s Meet the Press, and Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday and the October 16 editions of ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, NBC’s Today, CNN’s New Day, Fox News’ Fox & Friends, and MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

  • Today show set to welcome reported serial sexual predator Bill O'Reilly

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko  / Media Matters

    NBC’s Today Show, broadcast to 4.5 million viewers across the country as they get ready for the day ahead, apparently cannot think of a better use of its platform than to help a reported sexual harasser promote his weird vanity project and attempt to rehab his image.

    Bill O’Reilly was fired from Fox News in April following a New York Times report that detailed $13 million in settlements he and Fox’s parent company had paid to five women who reported O’Reilly for sexual harassment, a subsequent advertiser boycott spurred by activists, and later harassment reports from more women working at Fox. He was too dangerous for Fox News -- something grotesquely difficult to be -- and was subsequently (and justly) relegated to broadcasting his thoughts via a podcast from his office for months afterward.

    But now he’s promoting his newest book, part of an ongoing vanity project O’Reilly began years ago while still at Fox. And for some reason -- and I really, truly don’t know what that reason could be -- some major news networks are set to give him airtime to tout his book and attempt to whitewash his image along the way. If O’Reilly’s appearance on Sean Hannity’s radio show this afternoon provides a clue, he’ll also be using this book tour to publicly attack the credibility of women who’ve reported him for harassment.

    NBC’s Today appears to be the latest program to decide that allowing a reported serial sexual harasser to engage in an illogical and insulting PR tour is in the best interest of its viewers. O’Reilly tweeted that he will be appearing on Today during the 8 a.m. hour of its broadcast on September 19.

    An O’Reilly Today show appearance is completely unforgivable in a number of ways: His misconduct was reportedly one of the reasons Today’s Megyn Kelly left Fox News last year, and Today’s audience is primarily women, who are likely to have themselves experienced workplace sexual harassment.

    Unless O’Reilly’s Today appearance is a deeply researched and responsible interview focused solely on the reports that he sexually harassed at least five women, it will only damage NBC, hurt its viewers, and insult its employees.

    The network sat on the Access Hollywood footage depicting President Donald Trump bragging about committing sexual assault and was eventually scooped by another outlet. It subsequently waffled on firing its own employee, Billy Bush, for his participation in the incriminating exchange. So if NBC’s past priorities are any indication of its regard for the safety of women, the O’Reilly appearance won’t be anything but a cruel joke.

  • STUDY: Broadcast And Cable News Largely Ignored Xenophobic Shooting Of Indian Immigrants

    Fox News’ 14 Seconds Of Coverage Continues Its Pattern Of Dismissing Hate Crimes Against People Of Color

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Broadcast and cable news largely ignored the February 22 shooting of two Indian immigrants in Kansas in which the suspected attacker told the victims to “get out of my country,” devoting mere minutes to the attack. Fox News’ virtual failure to cover the attack fits into the network's larger pattern of severely downplaying hate crimes aimed at people of color.

  • Morning Shows Largely Ignore Trump Adviser's Possibly Illegal Communications With Russia

    Fox News And NBC Ignored The Reports, While CNN’s Coverage Led The Way

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Morning news programs on cable and broadcast television largely ignored reports that President Donald Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn seemingly engaged in “inappropriate and potentially illegal” communications with the Russian government, spending less than 30 minutes on it across 15 hours of programming.

    The Washington Post reported on February 9 that Flynn “privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office.” The Post explained that “Flynn’s communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were interpreted by some senior U.S. officials as an inappropriate and potentially illegal signal to the Kremlin.” The New York Times pointed out that the conversations “raise the prospect that Mr. Flynn violated a law against private citizens’ engaging in diplomacy, and directly contradict statements made by Trump advisers.”

    However, the story was all but neglected on morning shows across broadcast and cable news networks, with the exception of CNN. The February 10 editions of ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS’ CBS This Morning, and NBC’s Today spent a combined total of 2 minutes and 26 seconds on the story, with Good Morning America spending 1 minute and 32 seconds on it and CBS This Morning devoting only 54 seconds to the story. The story wasn’t mentioned at all on NBC’s Today.

    On cable news, Fox News’ Fox & Friends also spent no time on the reports during the February 10 edition. MSNBC’s Morning Joe barely fared better, discussing the story for only 3 minutes and 3 seconds during the three hour show. CNN’s New Day, on the other hand, led the pack, spending 20 minutes and 2 seconds discussing the new reports.

    Fox News and NBC’s decisions to ignore a story that is problematic for the Trump administration on their morning shows also fits into their patterns of providing favorable coverage to Trump and normalizing his incredibly abnormal administration.

    During the campaign, broadcast and cable news were reluctant to devote a significant amount of time to investigative reports about Trump and those around him. Instead, outlets consistently allowed Trump to hijack the media narrative and drown out negative coverage through his tweets and antics.

    Graphs by Sarah Wasko