SU Newhouse Professor Discusses how Morning Network TV Landscape is Changing Amid Recent Allegations

Nov 30, 2017

Matt Lauer outside during a TODAY Show broadcast.
Credit Jeff Simms /

A Syracuse University Newhouse School Professor of Television and Popular Culture was surprised by NBC’s quick firing of TODAY Show Host and Anchor Matt Lauer this week.  Bob Thompson said on Wednesday there are many unanswered questions that remain.

“How many people at that organization (NBC) knew what was going on?  If it was going on and how much were they enabling it?  I mean, that’s what was really damaging about that FOX with (Roger) Ailes and (Bill) O’Reilly is that so many people were aware of what was going on and they continued to let it go on.  We don’t know yet about how that’s happening at NBC but, I guess we’re gonna find out.”


And Thompson was correct when he made that prediction.  On Thursday, more allegations surfaced against Lauer.  At the top of the TODAY Show broadcast Thursday morning, Lauer’s former Co-Host Savannah Guthrie shared this written statement released by Lauer.

“There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions.  To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry.  As I am writing this I realize the depth of the damage and disappointment I have left behind at home and at NBC.  Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed.  I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly.  Repairing the damage will take a lot of time and soul searching and I'm committed to beginning that effort.  It is now my full time job.” – Matt Lauer

It’s the second week in a row that a major network morning TV host has been silenced over sexual harassment allegations or misconduct.

SU Newhouse School Professor and Director of the Bleier Center for TV Popular Culture Professor Bob Thompson.
Credit Newhouse School website.

“Clearly the landscape of morning television has changed significantly.  Two of the major anchors over at CBS with Charlie Rose and now with Matt Lauer at NBC.  They’re not going to be in those seats anymore.  On the other hand, morning television has been around since the TODAY Show started in 1952 and a lot of people come and go in those seats.  So, I don’t think morning TV is going to go away.”

It’s an interesting dimension when networks cover their-own internal problems which could suggest they’re being transparent.  However, Thompson doesn’t believe MSNBC’s constant coverage about Lauer is just simply about being forthcoming. 

“On Wednesday morning (when the Lauer story broke), if MSNBC wasn’t covering the Matt Lauer story, you would likely switch to a different channel that was.  To some extent, in this weird, creepy sort of way, breaking news is good for 24 hour cable television.  And sometimes, breaking news that’s aimed against your own network can be good for 24 hour cable television.”

Thompson believes that the public can assume that sexual harassment has been going on for a long time in journalism, politics, and Hollywood, and he surmises that it’s likely happened at industries across the board.