Would You Buy a Used TV-News Show from This Man?

Why NBC’s Steve Friedman wants twenty-three minutes and forty-five seconds of your time.

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  1. 10:00 a.m.—Morning Call

    It is a slow news day, and the NBC Nightly News staff is talking about 970-PEEE, a New York telephone number you can call to fulfill your golden-shower fantasies. National correspondent Bob Kur is researching a piece about "Shock Theater"—the idea is that obscenity now permeates and poisons our lives—and those in the small conference room are trying to best one another with vile and kinky anecdotes. The top producers sit around a plain table; their subordinates surround them in a loose rectangle. Monitors high on the rear wall flash soundless images, and everyone keeps an eye on CNN.

    Steve Friedman, the new executive producer of NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, has briefly and noisily critiqued the previous night's show before "passing the throne" to senior producer Cheryl Gould, who calls the listening domestic bureaus over the speakerphone to hear what's news. The atmosphere is loose and funny, but watchful: There are more staffers present—sixteen—than usual. "A lot of people," domestic-news producer Jack Chesnutt notes later, "are turning out to see if Steve's the ogre that he's supposed to be."

    Once the immediate business is done—it looks as if the burning tanker Mega Borg, in the Gulf of Mexico, will lead the broadcast—the New York staff returns to discussing whether children first hear naughty words in movies or in school. Friedman tries to sharpen the issue: "Has Eddie Murphy led us to the point where it's okay to do anything?"

    After a thou...

Originally published in Esquire, December 1990