In a sweeping story about the disarray at NBC News by Gabriel Sherman published today in New York magazine, NBC is described as a cauldron of crises–among them a top anchor who wasn’t precisely sure anchorman was the job he wanted. Sherman writes Williams, rebuffed in his interest in hosting “The Tonight Show,” had hoped “Rock Center” would evolve into a variety show.
And Sherman reports Williams had seriously considering making a move away from the anchor desk–even, possibly, toward a job in comedy:
Now, at 55, staring down another five years in the anchor chair, Williams began to tell friends he was thinking of making his side gig his main act. He relished the freedom of improv and expressed frustration at the conventions of network news. “Brian chafed at reading the prompter,” a senior NBC executive said. He also felt embraced by the entertainment community in a way he never was by NBC’s old guard, especially Russert and Tom Brokaw, his predecessor. Brokaw’s coldness seemed to heighten Williams’s sensitivities about being a blue-collar guy from New Jersey who had never finished college or been a war correspondent. Last summer, around the time Chuck Todd took over as moderator of Meet the Press, several staffers recalled that Williams told him: “At least your ghost is dead. Mine is still walking the building.”
Sherman reports Williams’ close relationship with returning boss Andy Lack may mean a return to the “Nighly News” anchor chair–but that’s only part of the problem at NBC. “It’s possible that, as inconceivable as it might have seemed just a few weeks ago, the person who might come out on top in all this is Brian Williams. But no one believes that will solve the problems of NBC News.”