More Lack Speculation…

The Wrap’s Jordan Chariton gets some people to weigh in on the issues Andrew Lack faces as he takes the reins of NBC News…

As long as he’s suspended, the cloud of Brian Williams will hang low over 30 Rock. Lack has to expedite the investigation into the “Nightly News” anchor’s reporting and make a final determination on his status.

“His first priority will be ‘Nightly News,’ finishing the Brian Williams investigation and, assuming no other problems are uncovered, reinstating Williams to his anchor role,” Joe Peyronnin, former VP of CBS News told TheWrap.

(snip to a comment from John Tantillo)

“This is a great opportunity for him to take brands that have been damaged, like the ‘Today’ Show and ‘Nightly News,’ and realize there are changing needs of what people want to see and view, and as a result change programming to represent that by making stories more youth-oriented.”

This is a common misconception. Nightly News’ brand isn’t damaged. Brian Williams’ brand is damaged. If Nightly’s brand was truly damaged, it should have fallen out of first in the ratings by now. It hasn’t…yet. So the issue isn’t so much to rehabilitate Nightly’s brand but Williams’. That’s a tall order.

Many people, myself included, see no way it can be done. Peyronnin suggests that if no other problems are uncovered it’d be okay to reinstate Williams. I seriously have to question that kind of thinking. It glosses over the scope of Williams’ tall tales, how far back they’ve gone, and how prevalent they were. Most didn’t happen on Nightly itself which is why Williams’ brand has taken a dive while Nightly’s has essentially held on.

So what to do about Williams? You can’t attempt to bring him back without a full and public accounting of what he’s done. If NBC tries that it will be dogged constantly with questions about what exactly Williams did. As will Williams.

So NBC would have to do what CBS did with Rathergate and put it all out there for public consumption. Does NBC seriously want to dredge all that up again six months after the fact, especially if Nightly is still #1 with Holt and everyone has moved off “Williamsgate”? Conversely, if NBC has tumbled out of first by that point, does NBC want to put the guy who is responsible for its fall back in the chair? Where’s the upside then?

But let’s say NBC does go and put it all out there. All the sordid details in some kind of report. It won’t be enough.

Williams himself would have to publicly comment on everything he did. It would have to be a personally painful public accounting where Williams tries to explain himself. The explanation could cause even more damage if the public gets it into its head that Williams exaggerated things for no reason other than vanity. That would be the ultimate poison pill.

So let’s assume that NBC releases its comprehensive report and Williams does his self-inflicted public flogging. The next step would be for NBC to put Williams back in the chair. Short of an explanation that Williams has a medical condition which caused him to bloviate uncontrollably which would be the only explanation that I can think of which the public would swallow whole without grimacing…short of that…Williams would take the chair with a still damaged brand. He and NBC would never be able to shake it off. It would always be out there. It would always be the butt of jokes. And Williams’ presence in the chair this time would absolutely damage NBC Nightly News’ brand.

This is why I believe Williams can’t be rehabilitated convincingly.


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