Nancy Snyderman is stepping down as Chief Medical Editor at NBC News, the division announced today, surprising no one.
When word got out that NBCUniversal was negotiating to bring back Andrew Lack as news chief, in hopes of restoring the division’s stature — and ratings — industry observers began talking about who’d be the big winners in this development, and who not so much. Snyderman went into the Not So Much category. (Others – suspended Nightly News anchor Brian Williams for instance – were put into the other list of those who now have another pal in the place, as the company mulls whether Williams’ imaginative renderings of his role in events he covered for the division. Williams goes way back with Lack, who began running NBC News in 1993 and stayed through 2001.)
The situation has resolved itself, technically before Lack begins his second at-bat running news operations for NBC. According to a source familiar with the situation, the decision for Snyderman to leave was mutual; Snyderman’s relationship with the news division having gone off the rails with her infamous soup-run disaster and never gotten back on track.
As industry pundits were making lists of NBC News messes with which Lack would have to contend, a Special Class of “mess” had been created for Snyderman, who got caught double-parked in her Mercedes, making a take-out food run. Problem is, she was supposed to be at home under the voluntary quarantine she’d announced, on NBC, she would enter after being exposed to Ebola while reporting in Africa. Then she made things worse with a statement about her quarantine nose-thumbing that even the AP described as “arrogant” and “dismissive” – and for which she got thoroughly flamed in comments on NBC News’ website.
That statement got read on-air by then NBC Nightly News anchor Williams; in it she did not acknowledge participating in the violation, instead describing it as “members of our group” having violated “those guidelines.” She also referenced her medical expertise and knowledge that she posed no threat to the public. And yet, public health authorities responded to the take-out-food run by slapping her with a mandatory quarantine, and local police responded by conducting surveillance of her neighborhood to make sure there was no further rannygazoo.
Further compounding the problem, NBC News filed its online coverage of Snyderman’s non-apology and new, mandatory quarantine, under the wildly tone-deaf headline: “Dr. Nancy Snyderman: ‘We remain healthy.’” NBC News then tried to control the damage by having her take time off after her quarantine was ended so as to keep her off the air until the story cooled down.
In its announcement of Snyderman’s exit, NBC News thanked her for “her expertise on countless health and medical topics that are vitally important to our audience. She’s been a valuable voice both on air and in our newsroom, and we wish her all the best.”
Snyderman, meanwhile, had this to say:
“I stepped out of the OR a few years ago and it is now time for me to return to my roots, so I am stepping down from my position as Chief Medical Editor at NBC News. Covering the Ebola epidemic last fall in Liberia, and then becoming part of the story upon my return to the U.S., contributed to my decision that now is the time to return to academic medicine. I will be shortly taking up a faculty position at a major U.S. medical school. More needs to be done to communicate medicine and science to our viewers and citizens, especially in times of crisis, and with my experiences in the field and on air, that is going to be a priority for me.
“I have loved my nine years at NBC and I am proud of the work my team has done. Very few people get the chance to combine two professions and I have appreciated the chance to inform the public about medical updates and the plight of so many in other countries. Every moment has been an honor.”