On the afternoon of Wednesday, February 4, the beleaguered head of NBC News, 47-year-old Deborah Turness, dropped into a chair in her boss’s office on the third floor of the network’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza headquarters. Her boss, Patricia “Pat” Fili-Krushel, oversaw NBC News as well as its cable cousins, CNBC and MSNBC. The two women, both sharp and stylish, were close; Fili, 61, had hired the British-born Turness from a London network 20 months earlier.
It had been a tumultuous period for NBC’s news division, as had the entire four years since the Philadelphia cable/phone/Internet giant, Comcast, took over NBCUniversal, as the company is officially known. There was Ann Curry’s tearful flameout on Today; David Gregory’s long slide to his exit from Meet the Press; the strange firing after less than three months on the job of Jamie Horowitz, an ESPN executive brought in to fix Today; not to mention ratings declines at several of the division’s centerpiece shows, including Today andMeet the Press.
But that afternoon, after a long presentation to 200 NBC advertising salespeople, Turness was feeling better than she had in months. When she had been hired she knew she was stepping onto a troubled ship; finally, she felt, the organizational changes she had made were showing results. Meet the Press’s ratings were edging up; Nightly News seemed to be stabilizing. “Things,” she told Fili, “feel like they’re in a really good place.”