NEW YORK (AP) — The NBC Universal News Group is launching a series of live events where "Morning Joe" host Mika Brzezinski offers empowerment tips to women, a venture that illustrates an effort to find revenue-raising activities outside the traditional definition of news.
The tour, loosely based on Brzezinski's book "Knowing Your Value," will begin in Philadelphia in April. Subsequent stops will be in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Boston and Orlando, the network said on Tuesday.
Brzezinski said she frequently hears from women inspired by her book, where she describes fighting to close a salary gap between her and co-host Joe Scarborough. She'll be part of each conference, which will feature women offering strategies to be more successful at work, personal finance, health and wellness.
Through its partnership with Kara Swisher and Walter Mossberg's Re/code, NBC has some experience running live events. NBC Universal also produces programming for elementary and secondary schools.
Like many news organizations, NBC Universal is looking for ways to make money beyond advertising within television news programs. Not only is there increased competition online for ad dollars, ratings troubles have cut into revenue for shows like "Today" and "Meet the Press," and now "Nightly News" faces a threat with the suspension of top anchor Brian Williams.
"For the health of the news industry, we need to keep evolving our business model," said Elisabeth Sami, a senior vice president in charge of business development at NBC Universal.
Brzezinski, who is releasing another book, "Grow Your Value," this spring, organized one conference on her own, in Hartford, Conn., and was heartened by the response.
Even successful women can use help in fighting for themselves in the workplace, including nuts-and-bolts advice on body language and what to wear while seeking raises, she said.
"If you do a conference in New York City, you see your friends in the audience, and you see the people we have on the show and then you see a few women who look a little lost — and they walk away feeling that what they aspire to is even further away than what they thought," she said. "And that's not how you want to have a conference. The women in Hartford ... walked out joyful, excited about going to work the next day and feeling that they had really tangible pieces of advice."
Johnson & Johnson is the lead sponsor of the tour, joined by other companies like Prudential, JetBlue, Tivo, Milly and NBC Universal owner Comcast. There are no plans for NBC News employees to hawk products during the event, Sami said.
News personnel need to make sure they are not creating conflicts of interest when they get involved in these other ventures, said Aly Colon, a professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University.
"Generally speaking, you're at your best when you're doing what you normally do," Colon said. "Anytime you extend beyond that you have to take care because you're going to affect how people see you as a news organization. The news groups are always better off, in my opinion, when you stick to the news."
Sami said the goal is to be as transparent as possible and "make sure we get it right."
The MSNBC.com web site will maintain a "Know Your Value" link with content and the ability to live stream some of Brzezinski's events.
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