NBC News chief vows to keep all channels open

April 14, 1993|By Knight-Ridder News Service

Having lived through seven CBS News presidents -- some of whom seemed hard of hearing -- Andy Lack says his most important management skill as NBC News boss will be to listen.

"You have to keep an open mind. A few of the presidents I dealt with didn't," said Mr. Lack at a 52nd-floor media gathering in NBC's Rockefeller Center headquarters Monday -- his first day on the job after 16 years as a CBS producer.

"Listen carefully to the problems of your colleagues," he said. "Even though there will be times you'll want to shut them off or shut them out, don't. They have to know you understand them and that they can let off steam. After that, you can disagree with them. The trouble comes when they feel you don't get it."

Mr. Lack gets it. Says NBC anchor Tom Brokaw: "Everyone here knows this is a guy they can't smoke. Andy is awfully skilled at dealing with personal relationships."

But will Mr. Lack be a skilled enough diplomat to handle the huge egos of on-air talent, not to mention strong-willed producers and bean-counting execs?

"I have had some exposure to those who might be delicately referred to as egotistical," says Mr. Lack, 45. "Usually, with ego comes great talent. Usually, the talent is so strong, it's a pleasure."

The "Dateline NBC"-General Motors fiasco "was a dreadful mistake," he acknowledges. "Several poor judgments were made, and NBC News paid a price for it. It's over. They dealt with it. . . . The audience is saying, 'We get it. You've moved on. We've moved on. What do you have for us next?' "

His philosophy: Stress content over packaging. The MTV-like smoke and mirrors of some newsmagazines "are wildly overrated. It's fun to play in those areas but I don't take them terribly seriously. It's not what the work is about."

With NBC President Bob Wright looking on, Mr. Lack said Jack Welch, chairman of network owner General Electric, had assured him that, contrary to rumor, NBC was not for sale. And, Mr. Welch said, NBC would back Mr. Lack with bucks.

Morale is high and Mr. Lack is reveling in his role as head cheerleader. In fact, he says he doesn't care how long the game lasts. "I don't worry about job security. I never have. . . . I love what I do. I hope that if I do it as well as I can every day, job security is not something I need worry about. If I get bounced because I don't do it right, that's life."

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