On paper, Cesar Conde is the chair of NBCUniversal News Group. But on Wednesday he also appointed himself as the effective president of NBC News.
After Noah Oppenheim — who has led the network during a cumulative period in the media industry and through Donald Trump’s chaotic presidency — told staff that he would vacate the role of NBC News president in favor of returning to screenwriting, Conde disclosed his succession plan.
But the NBCU News Group boss notably declined to select a single successor to oversee the sizable portfolio of Oppenheim. Instead, Conde moved to split the role up amongst a team of three executives.
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Rebecca Blumenstein, a deputy managing editor of The New York Times, will assume a swath of Oppenheim’s duties, taking on a newly created role as president of editorial at the network. Blumenstein has a long history of working in print, but glaringly lacks experience in television news. She will oversee some of NBC News’ television portfolio, such as “Meet the Press,” but will not have review over the two cornerstone programs, the “Today” show franchise and “NBC Nightly News.”
Those duties will fall to the other two executives that Conde has elevated to run the NBC News portfolio: Libby Leist and Janelle Rodriguez, two longtime network executives who both received promotions to executive vice president. Leist will continue to oversee “Today” and Rodriguez will oversee “Nightly” and NBC News NOW.
All three executives — Blumenstein, Leist, and Rodriguez — will report directly to Conde, making him the ultimate network boss.
“The appointments of Rebecca, Libby and Janelle provide a powerful foundation for the News Group as it continues to grow its leadership position,” Conde said in a press release announcing the news, adding that “the extraordinary accomplishments of Rebecca, Libby and Janelle and their visions will keep us on the path of continued success.”
Inside NBC News, the announcement puzzled some staffers, according to people familiar with the matter. “It is certainly leading to some head scratching around the newsroom,” as one person put it.
Of course, there is another way to look at the decision to divide Oppenheim’s portfolio amongst three executives: linear television is dying and the days in which a heavyweight, singular television news executive reigned over a fiefdom are rapidly coming to a close.
As one former television news executive put it Wednesday evening, the industry has a case of the “incredible shrinking news president.”