NBCUniversal has appointed Rebecca Blumenstein, a deputy managing editor at The New York Times, as the president of editorial for NBC News, as part of a far-reaching reorganization of the division.
Ms. Blumenstein, 56, has overseen The Times’s recruiting efforts and operations as part of the newsroom’s top management team and advised the paper’s publisher, A.G. Sulzberger. At NBC, she will inherit many of the responsibilities of Noah Oppenheim, who has been president of NBC News since 2017. He has struck a production deal with NBCUniversal, working on film and TV projects for the company.
With the appointment, Cesar Conde, who oversees NBCUniversal’s news division, is turning over major parts of his marquee news brand to a highly decorated print and digital journalist, but one with little experience in television.
Ms. Blumenstein, a Michigan native, is a former foreign correspondent who served as deputy editor in chief of The Wall Street Journal before joining the senior leadership of The Times in 2017. She will take charge of the network’s sprawling reporting operation as it seeks to expand its digital audience amid a long-term decline in broadcast TV viewership.
In a reorganization led by Mr. Conde, who as chairman of NBCUniversal News Group also runs CNBC and MSNBC, Ms. Blumenstein will oversee household-brand shows like “Meet the Press” and “Dateline.”
Some significant parts of NBC News overseen by Mr. Oppenheim will now report directly to Mr. Conde, including the network’s flagship program, “NBC Nightly News,” and the lucrative “Today” franchise of morning programming. The cable channels MSNBC and CNBC do not fall under Mr. Oppenheim’s portfolio and will continue to be led by their own presidents.
During her tenure at The Times, Ms. Blumenstein helped develop new formats to cover big breaking news events in real time, part of The Times’s aggressive expansion of its digital journalism. She led the evacuation and resettlement of the company’s Afghan employees and their families in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul in 2021.
In a statement on Wednesday, Ms. Blumenstein said that she was grateful to Mr. Sulzberger and Joe Kahn, the executive editor of The Times, for their “commitment to independent journalism.”
“The news landscape is rapidly evolving,” Ms. Blumenstein said. “I look forward to building on the deep journalistic foundation at NBC News to help the organization achieve its ambitions.”
At The Journal, Ms. Blumenstein led a team of China correspondents to a Pulitzer Prize in 2007. In China, she got to know Mr. Kahn, then a fellow foreign correspondent; Mr. Kahn appointed Ms. Blumenstein to his senior leadership team when he became The Times’s executive editor last year.
Her departure comes a few weeks after The Times announced that Clifford Levy, another deputy managing editor, would move to the company’s business side later this year as deputy publisher of The Athletic and Wirecutter.
In a note to Times employees, Mr. Kahn said that “NBC News is very lucky to have” Ms. Blumenstein. “As I learned when we worked for rival news organizations covering China, she is a superb, competitive journalist who is also a delightful colleague,” Mr. Kahn wrote.
At NBC, Mr. Oppenheim leaves his role after a six-year tenure that coincided with huge changes in the business model of TV news and the frenetic pace of the Trump presidency and a worldwide pandemic.
An NBC veteran who began as a producer for the Chris Matthews show “Hardball,” Mr. Oppenheim took on major roles at CNBC and “Today” before ascending to lead NBC News. He led an expansion of the network’s digital operations, including the debut of a fast-growing ad-supported streaming service, NBC News Now. NBC News Now generates more than 30 million hours of viewership monthly, the network said.
His tenure was also marked by controversy. Ronan Farrow, a former journalist and anchor at MSNBC, accused leadership at NBCUniversal, including Mr. Oppenheim, of trying to conceal a blockbuster investigation into allegations of sexual assault against the film producer Harvey Weinstein. Mr. Oppenheim said that Mr. Farrow’s story, as reported for the network, did not meet its standards for publication. Tensions related to the episode spilled into public, including an extraordinary on-air moment when Rachel Maddow said she had deep concerns about the organization’s handling of the story. NBC News renewed Mr. Oppenheim’s contract after the episode.
In a memo on Wednesday, Mr. Oppenheim said he was proud that NBC News remains “the gold standard in journalism,” adding: “Sharing this front-row seat to history with the smartest, most committed and most compassionate colleagues has been a tremendous privilege.”
Mr. Conde, in appointing a veteran newspaper journalist to a key role, appeared to send a firm signal that he believes his organization’s future will be increasingly digital and less dependent on traditional broadcast programming. In a memo on Wednesday, he said that NBC’s news operations would evolve “to stay ahead of the many changes in the technology that delivers the news.”
Ms. Blumenstein, he wrote, would “drive our journalism and original content across our broadcast and digital platforms as they continue to converge.” Since Mr. Conde started as chairman in 2020, he has remade the news division’s executive ranks, appointing Rashida Jones as president of MSNBC and KC Sullivan as president of CNBC.
The “Today” franchise will continue to be led by Libby Leist, a long-serving steward of the morning franchise. “NBC Nightly News” will continue to be led by Janelle Rodriguez, another NBC veteran who will also continue to oversee NBC News Now.
Along with his ongoing role at NBCUniversal, Mr. Oppenheim is developing a limited series at Netflix starring Robert DeNiro. Tentatively titled “Zero Day,” the series is described as a political thriller in which Mr. DeNiro portrays an ex-president who returns to run the country in the wake of a major catastrophe. Mr. Oppenheim’s collaborators on the series include Eric Newman, the showrunner of the drug trafficking drama “Narcos,” and Michael S. Schmidt, a reporter at The Times.
Mr. Oppenheim is not the first media executive to daydream about jumping to the entertainment side, but he is rare among his peers in having found some success in that endeavor: He wrote the screenplay for the 2016 biopic “Jackie” starring Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy, the former first lady.