Tuesday, February 10, 2015

BREAKING Brian Williams’ NBC Nightly News Ripped Off LewRockwell.com

Dale Steinreich reports:

On 29 July 2013, LRC published a formidable looking 101-year-old exam sent in by a reader that was once administered to eighth graders in Bullitt County, Kentucky.  Jezebel posted an item that same day and gave credit to LRC at the top and bottom of its post.  Daily Mailpicked it up from Jezebel and credited LRC as well.

NBC Nightly News came across the exam on Jezebel and contacted LRC for the image file of the exam and permission to use it on their 2 August broadcast.  The following is the e-mail exchange that ensued between LRC and NBC Nightly News:
Name: Julie Morse
Email: xxxxx@nbcuni.com
Subject: NBC Nightly News request- URGENT
Good Afternoon,
We are looking for permission to use photos from “Can You Pass This 101-Year-Old Test for 8th Graders in Kentucky?” article for our broadcast tomorrow. Could you please let me know either way! And, if we can use them – could you send me the .jpeg format? Thanks so much
IP Address: xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx
Referrer URL: https://www.lewrockwell.com/contact/
Timestamp: 08/01/2013

The response from LRC was:

From: John Keller
Sent: Thursday, August 01, 2013 5:25 PM
To: Morse, Julie (NBCUniversal); Lew Rockwell
Subject: Re: LewRockwell.com Contact Form Inquiry
Hi Julie, 
The JPG is attached. Please let us know what else you need. 
John Keller

Then came Julie’s response:

On Fri, Aug 2, 2013 at 10:00 AM, Morse, Julie (NBCUniversal) wrote:
Thank you very much!

To this John Keller replied:

From: John Keller
Date: Fri, Aug 2, 2013 at 10:59 AM
Subject: Re: LewRockwell.com Contact Form Inquiry
To: “Morse, Julie (NBCUniversal)”
Our pleasure – would love to know when you plan to air, and see a URL if you are cross-posting. 
Best, John Keller

I had seen the original LRC posting and Jezebel and Daily Mail crediting LRC.
When Nightly News aired 2 August 2013, I was absolutely stunned to see that not only had LRC been shamelessly stiffed of credit, but Williams flagrantly and ostentatiously credited Jezebel in its place, prominently displaying the Jezebel logo on screen but scrolling the image file sent by LRC (confirmed by John Keller).  Here’s the video (with the money moment beginning at 0:30) :

This seemed to be nothing less than a flat-out middle finger extended into LRC’s face practically accompanied by a, “[Blank] you.  What are you going to do about it?”
In response I called out Williams and NBC in a column afterward but neither I nor anyone at LRC ever heard anything back from anyone at NBCUniversal.  It appeared to be the most flagrant intended theft of material and deliberate misconduct I had ever seen from anyprofessional news organization, never mind a major one.
(To be clear, during a number of searches I conducted after writing the column, I found that WaPo’s Answer Sheet published an article on both the Kentucky exam and one from West Virginia back in January 2012, but it didn’t get much traction.  In fact, awareness of the Kentucky exam only seemed to really take off after LRC’s posting.  But none of this changes what NBC News knew at the time or did.)
Here was Keller’s response to my column:
Date: Fri, 9 Aug 2013 10:09:05 -0400
Subject: Fwd: LewRockwell.com Contact Form Inquiry
To: dsteinreich; lewrockwell
Wow – missed this, and great article Dale. Regarding that NBC Story. Note the crickets, and that these toads KNEW it came from LRC, and not Jezebel. Ugh. 
After viewing all the evidence again, he noted:
Looked at the Jezebel article, and LRC is called out at the top and the bottom. There’s no way you can overlook the attribution. The JPG’s they ran in the segment are the original long ones ones I supplied, NOT the Jezebel ones which are re-formatted wide, side by side. They went out of their way to NOT cite LRC.
Complete journalistic misconduct. Revolting.
It’s hard to see how NBC News can spin the LRC incident as some innocent accident or oversight.  How on earth could Jezebel get it right, Daily Mail get it right, and yet legendary colossus NBC Nightly News see it on Jezebel, contact LRC, and yet credit Jezebel?  I sense a small, petty mind coupled with an obnoxious ego at work, and the suspect isn’t Julie Morse.
I understand that NBC News doesn’t like LRC’s libertarian perspective and that Brian is a devout mainstream progressive and Hillary-Clinton fan.  But this isn’t about politics but basic integrity.  


  1. "But this isn’t about politics but basic integrity. "

    I'm surprised you expected basic integrity from them.

  2. So theft is equivalent to copying information without notifocation or attribution, yes?

  3. I apprehend the institutional incentives to stiff LRC, but many explanations are possible including mere error. Impotent outrage is an easy but useless and immature response. Every crisis is an opportunity and an ideological opposite may nevertheless be turned into a valuable personal ally. This incident might have been parleyed into a vein of recurring exposure for LRC on NBC Nightly News.

    Julie Morse reached out with a polite request and was responded to generously. Why not contact her again maintaining that same spirit. Bring her attention to the matter requesting a correction, and suggest ways to work together moving forward?

    Not all journalists lack integrity and Ms. Morse, even if she can't get a correction aired, may be able to make it up to LRC in other ways. Mutual aid and assuming the best of people rather than the worst can lead to great, productive relationships. This is how I would have handled this:

    Dear Ms. Morse,

    Glad we could help supplying the material for the Aug 2 story on the 101-Year old Test. To our chagrin, we noticed the broadcast story inaccurately cited Jezebel as the original source. Does NBC have a journalistic policy it follows surrounding errors of attribution?

    Also, we occasionally come by similarly colorful colloquial stories that I could make a point to send your way. If you give me a sense of what types of stories you are on the lookout for, I may be able to help you with your story needs again down the road.

    1. Yup, this is great advice straight out of 'How to Win Friends and Influence People' from Dale Carnegie.

    2. Maybe. Just seems like smart human behavior to me. In my opinion, many of the ideas in that book are apt explanations of how humans successfully interface with each other. Other ideas in that book cross the line into pandering rather than mutuality and into ideological compromise for the sake of relationships.

      LRC was not pandering nor ideologically compromising when it first provided the story material to NBC News. Nor would it be doing so by offering to continue under mutually beneficial conditions that do not compromise principle.