An Open Letter to Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE

Here’s the email that I just fired off to Jeff Immelt of GE. I don’t expect a direct response, but I figure more coverage can’t hurt.

Hey Jeffrey,

Look, I worked for you (at Garrett Aviation) and respect both your skills and your leadership. I find you to be one of the best stewards of the legacy and intelligence that GE has always embodied. So please, tell me why you are letting NBC re-enact the Maiden Voyage of the Titanic?

I’m not being crass, rude, or wrong in comparing the two. You have talented people who should know better driving the ship in the dark and not paying attention to the basics of stewardship. The new programming director has a conflict of interest so immense it makes the the Atlantic ocean appear a droplet. And while Jeff Zucker is, and always will be, a brilliant man, he’s lost track of what works and what doesn’t.

And together, today, this team, which should be a brilliant team, have instead gone an undone part of what made last year half-way decent for the NBC/Universal. Why axe iTunes? I paid a considerable sum for the shows I wanted to see, not because I’d miss them on TV but because I wanted to watch them again – usually on a plane using my iPod.

Are you going to make a store compatible with the iPod? Or will I have to get your content another way? Because I can tell you right now, my iPod, much like your iPod, isn’t going away. What will go away, at least from you, is my money. Because if I can’t get your shows to view on my iPod, I won’t buy your shows. Period. (And some of my less scrupulous pals may still get your shows, but again, they won’t buy them from you.)

Is this how you let them run businesses these days? I’m sad to see this, and I hope you change it. In fact, I’m begging you to change it, because it’s wrong, hurtful, and frankly, since you didn’t get any revenue from downloads before, just baffling that you’d give up the revenue now.

And, as long as I’m firing off this letter, here’s another problem for you to fix: Brian Williams.

I like him as a reporter. In fact, he’s about the best reporter there is. He’s a horrible anchor though. You know why? His voice. When he talks, his pitch is in the upper register for a male voice. It’s tinny and harsh, when we’re used to Brokaw who was warm, deep and sonorous. But go back and look at the tapes of Brokaw doing interviews, and listen to his voice. When he’s talking to someone, asking them questions, interviewing and conversing, he lifted his voice. Not a lot, not a huge change, but enough to go from his anchor voice, and it worked because his voice would instruct and guide those he interviewed to answers they didn’t expect to give. Brian does that part extremely well. Brian just lacks the anchor voice. The voice of a nation. The voice that calms, educates, and reviews. The voice that does not ask, just informs, that’s the voice of an anchor. Brian lacks it. If he can find it, great, it will make all the difference in the world. If he can’t, get a new anchor, but keep Brian in charge of interviewing everyone, if you can.

(And, no, this doesn’t mean I think that women can’t be anchors. They most certainly can, but they can’t be just like male anchors, there are other challenges and distinctions they need to make to compete, but they most certainly can compete and win. Katie needs some help, but mostly she needs to get rid of the producers that are sucking the life out of her. Too bad she’s not at NBC anymore.)

Sincerely,

Kevin Hamm