This Friday, as a kick-off to Washington’s annual White House Correspondents Dinner weekend, NBC News Chairman Cesar Conde will host a belated grand opening for the network’s sleek new state-of-the-art studio at 400 North Capitol Street. A party for lawmakers, lobbyists and other D.C. power players will be preceded by a private reception for staff. Conde will make some brief remarks, presumably commending the essential work of NBC and MSNBC journalists, who rightly deserve his praise, and the D.C. rank and file will get drinks, appetizers and a rare opportunity to shake hands with a high-level executive who usually splits his time between New York and Miami.
Even after two years at the helm of NBC News, Conde remains something of an enigma to many of the company’s journalists. A polished, Harvard and Wharton-educated businessman, he’s an ostensibly brilliant guy who sits on the boards of Walmart and Pepsi. He is also a stark departure from news organization leaders of the past. Former NBC News presidents like Neal Shapiro, Steve Capus, and Andy Lack, and their contemporaries across broadcast and cable news, had largely come up as executive producers and considered themselves journalists. They were intimately involved in day-to-day editorial decisions and thrived off the competitive energy that comes with winning a news cycle. This rearing made them natural talent whisperers, and often garnered them large measures of credibility in organizations where the talent is out front and the numbers people eat at the nerds table in the cafeteria.