NBC News and Brian Williams Keep Digging

To fire or not to fire: is that even the question?


Last week, our joint poll with TVNewser revealed that Brian Williams and NBC now reside in a hole of their own making.

There has been an admission, a mysterious blank (but not deleted) Twitter feed, and a fabulous meme/hashtag combo. These foibles have caused much embarrassment for NBC News much embarrassment, and the network’s response has been lackluster.

Unfortunately, viewers will have to wait even longer to witness this drama’s resolution as Williams announced his plans to take a hiatus from the station. He was able to provide that news himself, as it were:

In the midst of a career spent covering and consuming news, it has become painfully apparent to me that I am presently too much a part of the news, due to my actions.

As Managing Editor of NBC Nightly News, I have decided to take myself off of my daily broadcast for the next several days, and Lester Holt has kindly agreed to sit in for me to allow us to adequately deal with this issue. Upon my return, I will continue my career-long effort to be worthy of the trust of those who place their trust in us.

“Upon my return” implies that the man’s job remains secure…but we’re not so sure.

Williams has a habit of “misremembering.” Our own Mark Joyella of TVNewser fame wrote a gripping article about his habit.

The story grows more convoluted by the minute. In her New York Times op-ed yesterday, Maureen Dowd claimed that “NBC executives were warned a year ago” about Williams’ tendency to exaggerate his own experiences, with some now doubting his takes on Hurricane Katrina and other recent events.

Dowd’s colleage David Carr is somewhat forgiving today, writing that “his transgressions were not a fundamental part of his primary responsibilities.”

tom-brokaw-brian-williamsBTW, this happened: Tom Brokaw wanted Williams fired.

“Brokaw wants Williams’ head on a platter,” an NBC source said. “He is making a lot of noise at NBC that a lesser journalist or producer would have been immediately fired or suspended for a false report.”

That was the report…until Brokaw shot it down on Saturday.

“I have neither suggested nor demanded Brian be fired,” Brokaw said in a statement published to the Huffington Post. “His future is up to Brian and the executives of NBC News.”

Williams’ future is up in the air, and last week a crisis expert told us, on condition of anonymity, that he would be a terrible client.

The main point of interest, however, is bigger: Matthew Ingram of GigaOM wrote several days ago that Williams had become irrelevant long before this incident because so few people look to nightly network broadcasts for news.

So does this story amount to a wet blanket on Williams’ career or a more general indictment of what journalism has become?