If Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien were to suddenly relocate to Haiti, Steve Capus would need a defibrillator.
Thus far, NBC News chief Capus has been able to sidestep the network’s nasty late-night melodrama to focus on the earthquake disaster in Haiti. Not surprisingly, his embattled boss, Jeff Zucker, backs his play, Capus says.
“Jeff told us to go off and do great work,” says Capus. “I don’t blink at spending the kind of money we need to spend.”
Capus also jumped to Zucker’s defense in a searing piece about the NBC czar’s role in the late-night imbroglio in Sunday’s New York Times (Page 1, no less.) Capus accused the media of overblowing Leno v. O’Brien, given the misery in Haiti.
“The sideshow that is the late-night wars is of no interest to the news division,” Capus tells TVNewser. “It’s a soap opera. Nobody walks around the floors of NBC News talking about it. The magnitude of the Haiti story has had our complete focus.”
NBC anchor Brian Williams recently returned from the scene of devastation, as did CBS’s Katie Couric and ABC’s Diane Sawyer.
Sawyer, for example, began planning her second trip almost immediately, says “World News” executive producer Jon Banner.
As anchor for less than a month, Sawyer’s coverage “exceeded my expectations,” says Banner, who traveled with her for a week, from Kabul to Port-au-Prince.
“Clearly, she is first and foremost a reporter,” Banner adds. “Her abilities in the field are remarkable. She’s also a producer, and has the ability to put together a piece. It’s fascinating to be part of that.”
As he did after Katrina, Williams “is struggling a little bit” in readjusting to New York, according to Capus. “It’s about the ‘have’s’ and the ‘have not’s,’ and feeling guilty about your surroundings.” Still, he’s eager to go back, Capus says.
The ethical issue of journalists getting involved in stories they’re covering has become moot in Haiti.