Dateline NBC

Dateline NBC
Dateline NBC
Dateline NBC.png
Format Newsmagazine
Presented by Jane Pauley (1992–2003)
Stone Phillips (1992–2007)
Ann Curry (2005–2011)
Lester Holt (2011–present)
Country of origin United States
Running time 1 hour to 2 hours (including commercials)
Production company(s) Peacock Productions,
a unit of NBC News
Original channel NBC
Picture format 480i (SDTV) 1080i (HDTV)
Original run March 31, 1992 – Present
External links

Dateline NBC, or Dateline, is a U.S. weekly television newsmagazine broadcast by NBC. It previously was NBC's flagship news magazine, but now focuses on true crime stories. It airs Friday at 9 p.m. EST and after football season on Sunday at 7 p.m. EST.



Dateline is historically notable for its longevity on the network. The show started in 1992 with Stone Phillips and Jane Pauley as co-anchors. Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric joined the program when Now (not to be confused with the PBS program) was converted to Dateline Wednesday. Gradually the program expanded with a third night in 1994 and a fourth night in 1997 until it aired for five nights a week in mid-1999 and 2000. The program started to lose its luster as reality television shows became more popular, with nights being eliminated beginning in spring 2001, and the historic Tuesday night slot eliminated in 2003.[1]

Dateline was the first "multi-night" franchise that "established brand power by 'stripping' editions", an entertainment division strategy that placed a program in the same time slot every week." The program was considered one program rather than multiple weekly programs and included many teasers and multiple installment interviews. In its prime, from 1995 to 1999, Dateline provided significant breaking news coverage. Dateline sensationalized news stories and drew viewers in with multiple-installment stories. By 1999, an hour of Dateline was in the top 10 among all viewers most weeks. NBC capitalized on its relationship with CNBC and MSNBC through repackaged stories on Headliners and Legends and Time and Again.[1] NBC later tried a similar strategy of "stripping" with The Jay Leno Show in 2009.

The program first originated from NBC Studio 3K, using the same set the NBC Nightly News was using at the time. When The Today Show moved to its current location NBC Studio 3B in 1994, Dateline took over Studio 3B with a brand-new set.
Past contributing anchors were Bryant Gumbel, who left NBC in 1997; Maria Shriver, who left NBC in 2004; and Katie Couric, who left NBC in 2006. On June 24, 2005 Ann Curry co-anchored "Dateline" for the first time and became permanent host shortly thereafter.
Dateline was broadcast in high definition for the first time on Monday, July 21, 2008, with an episode titled "Tower Dogs". Two-hour feature-length editions sometimes air on any given scheduled evening. Dateline is currently sharing the multi level "Studio 1A" with the Today Show.
Lester Holt replaced Ann Curry as host of "Dateline" with the start of the 20th season on September 23rd, shortly after Curry became permanent co-host of the Today Show.

To Catch a Predator

To Catch a Predator is a Dateline series hosted by Chris Hansen. The sting operations begin with recordings of Internet chats with "decoys" from Perverted-Justice, posing as teenagers under the age of consent. To Catch a Predator videotapes men who attempt to meet the "children" in person. Shortly after the target is inside the "sting" house, Hansen would confront him and ask him about the Internet chats he had had with the decoy. After being confronted by Hansen, the men are arrested by local police.[2]

Comparison with other news magazines

In contrast to NBC's "hard news" magazine program, Rock Center with Brian Williams, Dateline programming focuses on true crime and human interest stories, predominantly featuring a single story for the entire program. [3] Often Keith Morrison narrates shows and cliffhangers are used prior to commercial breaks.[4]

Dateline features a single story format, although in the past Dateline was a traditional newsmagazine with multiple segments of varying length, such as with the Sunday version.[5] Unlike the other flagship newsmagazines on U.S. television (CBS News' 60 Minutes and ABC News 20/20), Dateline featured more character-driven stories focusing on the audience's emotional attachment to the persons featured, and fewer non-character driven international and national news stories. However, the success of Dateline led to the other networks to create additional versions of their newsmagazines, 60 Minutes II and additional nights of 20/20.[1]

Executive producer Neal Shapiro pioneered "signature segments" that appeared regularly. These segments included Dateline: Survivor, where a person talks about their near death experience and rescue; Dateline Timeline, where a popular product, person, and music single are played and viewers are invited to guess what year it appeared in; State of the Art, explaining how something was technically accomplished in a movie; Consumer Alert, where common consumer complaints or issues, such as food safety, are investigated, Dateline Hidden Camera Investigation, a story using hidden cameras to focus on an issue of public concern, and Newsmakers, light interviews of major figures in politics, entertainment, and business, as well as regular people in the news. Dateline did cross-promotional segments with Court TV, People magazine, Good Housekeeping, and Consumer Reports. In the 1990's, a common week would feature several "signature segments", breaking news, updates on past stories, multi-part investigations, and interviews. [1] Dateline also pioneered viewer feedback including telephone polling and a unique format, the Interactive Dateline Mystery, where viewers voted similar to Choose Your Own Adventure on where the story should go next.[6]

The Friday night edition of Dateline features special emphasis on true crime stories programming, which includes the "To Catch a Predator" series. NBC News specials also air under the Dateline banner.


Critics claimed that Dateline used voyeuristic and titillating stories for higher Nielsen ratings.

General Motors v. NBC

Dateline NBC aired an investigative report on Tuesday, November 17, 1992, titled “Waiting to Explode”. The 60 minute program was about General Motors pickup trucks allegedly exploding upon impact during accidents due to the poor design of fuel tanks. Dateline's film showed a sample of a low speed accident with the fuel tank exploding. In reality, Dateline NBC producers had rigged the truck’s fuel tank with remotely controlled explosives. The program did not disclose the fact that the accident was staged. GM investigators studied the film, and discovered that smoke actually came out of the fuel tank six frames before impact. GM subsequently filed an anti-defamation/libel lawsuit against NBC after conducting an extensive investigation. On Monday, February 8, 1993, GM conducted a highly publicized point-by-point rebuttal in the Product Exhibit Hall of the General Motors Building in Detroit that lasted nearly two hours after announcing the lawsuit.[7] The lawsuit was settled the same week by NBC, and Jane Pauley read a 3 minute 30 second on-air apology to viewers.

The lawsuit and subsequent settlement was arguably the most devastating blow for NBC in a series of reputation damaging incidents during the 1990s and early 2000s. Within NBC, Michael Gartner, who resigned shortly after the incident, was the source for much of the blame. Then-NBC News President Reuven Frank stated Gartner was hired in 1988, despite no TV news background, in an attempt to satisfy parent-company General Electric by replacing current journalists with cheaper, less experienced reporters and producers.[8]

The following Dateline NBC producers were dismissed: Jeff Diamond, executive producer; David Rummel, senior producer; and Robert Read, producer of the report on the pickups. Michele Gillen, the reporter involved in the segment, was transferred to Miami station WTVJ. Michael G. Gartner, president of the news division, resigned under pressure.

Trapping story targets

Dateline NBC soon returned to the controversy spotlight via a May 4, 1993 piece titled "Cataract Cowboys" in which Brian Ross claimed that doctors unnecessarily performed surgery on elderly patients. The controversy brought into question techniques used such as disregarding evidence that contradicts a story's claim and using planted accomplices to entrap targets of the story. The Southeastern Eye Center attempted to sue NBC over the story, but later dropped the suit.


In 2004, Dateline NBC aired a report, alleging that some high-level Quixtar (aka Amway) distributors make most of their money from selling motivational materials, rather than Quixtar products, and make unrealistic claims about potential income.[9] Quixtar declined to respond on camera.

Michelle Madigan

In August 2007, Michelle Madigan, a reporter for the program, attempted to secretly record hackers admitting to crimes at that year's DEF CON in Las Vegas. After being outed by DEF CON founder Jeff Moss during an assembly, she was heckled and chased out of the conference by attendees for her use of covert audio and video recording equipment. DEF CON staff tried to get Madigan to obtain a press pass before the outing happened.[10] A DEF CON source at NBC had tipped off organizers to Madigan's plans.[11]



Contributing Anchors


Executive Producer

  • David Corvo

Former anchors


  • John Libretto

International broadcasts

NBC affiliates are widely available in Canada, and MSNBC and NBC News programming is shown for several hours a day on the 24 hour news network Orbit News in Europe and the Middle East. This includes Dateline NBC and several other shows. It is also broadcast on the Seven Network in Australia on Sundays at 5am but is pre-empted by paid programming on regional affiliates Prime Television and Golden West Network. It is also broadcasts on Talk TV in the Philippines.


Repackaged episodes of Dateline air under the names Dateline on ID on Investigation Discovery, Dateline on Cloo on Cloo and Dateline: Real Life Mysteries on TLC.


  1. ^ a b c d Encyclopedia of Television, p. 661
  2. ^ "Prosecutor Kills Himself in Texas Raid Over Child Sex", by Tim Eaton, The New York Times, November 7, 2006. Retrieved February 9, 2008
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ "GM vs. NBC, a New Wave of Employee Pride". GMHeritageCenter.,_a_New_Wave_of_Employee_Pride. Retrieved July 14, 2010. 
  8. ^ "'Dateline' Disaster". Entertainment Weekly. February 26, 1993.,,305709,00.html. 
  9. ^ Dateline NBC report on Quixtar
  10. ^ Cassel, David (4 August 2007). "Transcript: Michelle Madigan's run from Defcon". Retrieved 2007-08-15. 
  11. ^ Zetter, Kim (3 August 2007). "Dateline Mole Allegedly at DefCon with Hidden Camera -- Updated: Mole Caught on Tape". Wired Blog Network. Retrieved 2007-08-15. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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