Question: I hope I'm not the only one feeling that NBC's pre-taped segment with Tom Brokaw discussing the political turmoil of China was tasteless. It was an awful, politically slanted piece of garbage. This is a sporting event, not Meet the Press. The night was supposed to celebrate the world, China and athletes, but instead I was given a five-minute piece meant to "keep this Olympics in perspective" and practically seed hate for the Chinese. Its funny, right after that taped segment, Matt Lauer says "live" while commentating that he doesn't want the show to have a political message and refused to bring up any politics during the show. I know you mentioned it in your most recent Dispatch (more as a play-by-play), but what were your thoughts on the segment?
Answer: I wasn't troubled or offended by the news report, in part because I never think context is a bad thing — and when you consider the worldwide protests that greeted the running of the Olympic torch in many nations, an expression of how controversial the decision was to allow China to host the games, it's a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation for NBC. China is and always will be a lightning rod, and Brokaw's report attempted to explain why. If NBC had only shown the gorgeous travelogue images and put a happy-smiley face on things, the network would likely be even more hammered by China's critics that it probably already is in politically oriented op-ed columns and blogs. News and sports, especially in a situation like this, aren't enemies. So for NBC to show some editorial independence at the start of the night before the festivities began made sense to me, although I get the point that it might not have set an appropriate tone for what was to follow, and might have been better contained within the usual Nightly News format. But when Lauer and especially Bob Costas took over, the tone was properly celebratory, as it has been throughout the overall coverage of these extraordinary games.