It was NBC's legendary boss David Sarnoff who said, "Competition brings out the best in products and the worst in people." If he saw his rival network ABC's World News with Diane Sawyer last night he might want to amend it to say that competition sometimes does bring out both the WORST in product and people.
We're talking about the dramatic story of Syrian government forces kidnapping NBC's chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, his producer and cameraman, holding them for five days and their climactic escape. It's a major news story -- especially if you're NBC or MSNBC -- and an unavoidable story if you're the competing ABC World News with Diane Sawyer. You've got to run it -- and they did -- just not in their first important segment. Fair enough. The Sandy Hook Elementary School horror was still the lead story of the day.
When World News did run the piece, NBC's Engel was described as some sort of generic news reporter while the 'NBC' affiliation was judiciously left out of the script and not mentioned once during the whole story. However, the ABC news logo DID run along the bottom of the Engel video leaving the casual viewer the impression that the reporter was on staff at ABC.
Oversight? No. Engel's NBC affiliation is correctly identified on the ABC news website, just not on their flagship nightly news broadcast. This was a strategic decision driven by competition from whoever is in charge of editorial content on the show. That's usually the show producer, executive producer and Ms. Sawyer who, we assume, has an editorial voice on the program. Ms. Sawyer appears to be a gracious professional. This was not gracious. It was petty and it certainly was not professional. It was just plain shabby journalism.
Maybe South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone trump David Sarnoff's competition observation when they say, "Sometimes what's right isn't as important as what's profitable." Ya think?