With Arizona's new law bringing the issue back into the headlines, NBC is taking a close look at immigration on Wednesday -- a lonnnng close look. NBC News, its cable-news partners CNBC and MSNBC, and its Spanish-language corporate cousin Telemundo will air a day-long series of investigative reports on immigration.
"We've been talking for six months about focusing all our resources on immigration," says Alex Wallace, senior vice president of NBC News. "The story has been like a bubbling pot for a long time, and about two months ago, even before the Arizona law passed, we decided to do this."
The coverage, titled A Nation Divided, will extend across all the network's broadcast, cable and Internet outlets:
** NBC's Today show will feature reports on how immigration affects families, while NBC Nightly News will take a closer look at the Arizona law, as well as at other states considering similar measures.
** Telemundo will air stories from Arizona on three of its news shows,Levantate, Al Rojo Vivo con Maria Celesteand Jose Diaz-Balart's Noticiero Telemundo.
** Diaz-Balart will pop over to MSNBC to guest-host an hour-long show on immigration. Segments throughout the day will examine the politics of immigration reform, the details of pending legislation at both the state and federal levels and the prospects for Arizona's law surviving a court challenge. It will also take a look at a Virginia town that's launching its own crackdown on illegal immigrants.
** CNBC will focus on the economics of immigration and the tax implications of legalizing the current undocumented immigrants, estimated to be about 12 million people.
"We'll also have results of a new poll that deals with a lot of different facets," says Wallace. "This is a very fraught issue: What do Americans think we should do with people who are already here without documentation? What do they think of the Arizona law? What do they think about the way President Obama has handled it so far?"
The coverage will be far-ranging and full of surprises, Wallace says. "We've got a piece on a man whose two children and their mother have been deported," she says. "We've got another one that profiles Jackson Heights in New York, where there are immigrants from 17 different countries. We won't just covering the Latino side, either. We'll have stories on Haitians and other immigrants. The New York Times had a story the other day on Haitian immigrants going to Vermont by way of Canada -- this issue goes in directions you would never expect."
Focusing four networks on immigration for an entire day naturally raises the question of whether NBC will burn itself out on the issue and let it disappear. Wallace insists that won't be the case. "It's not like we haven't been covering this constantly anyway," she says. "But focusing on it like this enables us to reach more people. And if you tune it Wednesday and see something you like, and then two days later you don't , then we've failed. We have to ensure continuity of coverage. We're not going to drop the subject."
And, she promises, NBC won't burn out viewers, either. "It's not like you're going to get up, turn on the Today show, and see nothing but immigration stories the rest of the day," she says. "I promise."