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All journalists face huge challenges in trying to keep the public informed and government honest during this unprecedented health crisis moment. It has particularly hit hard on television news operations, as news heads grapple with keeping the newsgathering going even as some of their own employees are testing positive and in some cases, dying. Here is a column written under anonymity by someone who wished to be identified only as a senior segment producer of a primetime show on MSNBC. The contributor believes that NBC News is creating a potentially dangerous environment by keeping open its 30 Rockefeller Center offices.
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The decision is simple, the execution is complicated.
CBS News shut down the CBS Broadcast Center after people there tested positive for coronavirus. NBC News, with multiple confirmed cases at its headquarters at 30 Rock, as well as one tragic death, still has not shut down the building.
NBC News/MSNBC has a far more vast operation at 30 Rock than CBS News has at its New York headquarters, making the execution of such a decision far more difficult. That does not however change the vital importance of the decision itself. It is the right decision. Shut that building down.
Here is just one idea. Shut down the building at 30 Rock, ask that anyone who has worked in that building within the past two weeks begin to self-quarantine for at least two weeks. Then slowly reopen the building at a future date. In the meantime, NBC News has a vast array of locations from which to broadcast its many shows. No, it would not be easy. But it is essential. Any number of variations on this idea might work, but they all rest on one simple premise.
Shut down 30 Rock.
Of course it is entirely possible that satellite operations could wind up with cases of the virus as well. But the entire point of “distancing” is to reduce the chances. That’s why CBS News took its weekday morning show, its Sunday morning show, its local news shows, and 60 Minutes, to name just a few operations, and spun them off into different locales once cases of coronavirus struck its headquarters. By doing that, the company reduced the chance of further infection while still broadcasting.
NBC News has greatly reduced its footprint at 30 Rock in reaction to the multiple cases of coronavirus in that building. It is cleaning regularly. It is abiding by other smart protocols. But it is not enough. There are still too many people in one building. It defies simple logic on the best approach to stamp out the coronavirus at 30 Rock.
I have stopped going to 30 Rock. I work from home. I have been told that no one on my team will be required to work there.
It is not enough. Some employees, given the choice, will still go, against their better judgement, because they fear a decision to stay home would jeopardize their job.
The company is a microcosm of the society at large. NBC News has an opportunity to set the right example and take the admittedly drastic measure to shut down 30 Rock and help end the coronavirus in its own ecosystem.
I am not suggesting NBC News is at fault for the death of one its employees. I am suggesting that anything short of shutting down 30 Rock could contribute to further unnecessary cases.
As I write this, I receive yet another email from a leader of the NBC News operation telling us of yet another case of coronavirus at 30 Rock, and the measures the company is taking.
Those measures are insufficient.
Insufficient from a public health perspective.
Insufficient from a moral perspective.
Shut down 30 Rock, now.
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