Archive for the Miscellaneous Subjects Category

Rampant Speculation…

Posted in Miscellaneous Subjects on March 3, 2015 by icn2

Politico’s Dylan Byers pens a silly piece on what happens to Brian Williams if Andy Lack comes back to helm NBC News…

Former NBC News president Andrew Lack’s return to 30 Rock — he is currently in talks about a “top job” in the news division — would catalyze a major shakeup among the executive leadership and would likely signal Brian Williams’ return to the network, current and former high-level NBC News staff told the On Media blog on Monday.

Lack, who served as NBC News president from 1993 to 2001, is a close friend and adviser to Williams and the man responsible for making him anchor of the NBC Nightly News ten years ago. High-level sources who spoke to On Media on Tuesday said that Lack’s return to NBC News should be taken as a near-guarantee that NBC would move to reinstate Williams as anchor of the Nightly News. Williams was given a six-month suspension in February for making false claims about his experience during the Iraq War, leading many industry insiders to believe that he would not return to “Nightly” at all.

One wonders who Byers’ sources were for this story but whoever they were they kinda gave Byers a bum steer.

The idea that Lack returning to NBC increases Williams chances of returning to Nightly News is profoundly flawed analysis for two big reasons.

First, it’s not going to be Lack’s call. It’s going to be Comcast Executive Vice President Steve Burke’s call. Lack would probably have input but ultimately it’s Burke’s decision since Burke was the one who took charge of the Williams scandal and made the call to have him suspended (and issue a statement about the damage done by Williams). Burke owns this, not Lack.

Second, Lack is not likely to stick his neck out for Williams regardless of their history together. Put it in these terms: would you want one of the first major decisions affecting the news division you just took over to be to bring back the guy whose scandal kicked into high gear the chain of events which brought you back in the first place? Would you want to expend whatever capital you came in with on a street fight that’s going to bring all that stuff up again? This is a particularly valid point if Nightly, helmed by Lester Holt, is still ahead of ABC’s World News.

The optics are all wrong for Lack if he was predisposed to going for bat for Williams in a big way.

Then there’s this…

In addition to signaling a Williams comeback, some sources said, a Lack chairmanship would shore up support for Lauer at NBC’s “Today” show and could even lead to Couric’s return to NBC News. (Couric, now a Yahoo News, was at NBC from 1989 to 2006.)

Shore up support for Lauer? Who on earth is going around saying Lauer is embattled still? Nobody I know. Yes, Today isn’t #1 anymore but it’s not because of Lauer, nor is it because the show is still in the chaos it was over a year ago.

And Couric? Don’t get me started…

This next graph necessitates a question…

Lack’s return could have broader implications for the peacock. As chairman of the news group, he would also be tasked with overseeing MSNBC, which has been dogged by severe ratings declines in recent years. Lack is responsible for the creation of MSNBC, though its complete transformation into a liberal network happened long after his departure.

The $64,000 question: What does Lack think of Phil Griffin? When Lack was running NBC, Griffin was still an MSNBC underling so what their relationship was like at the time directly impacts what happens should Lack take over. Would Lack’s arrival shorten Griffin’s already short leash and speed up the timeframe Griffin has to affect change before he’s removed? Or would Lack be more focused on dealing with NBC News’ broadcast properties first which could give Griffin extra breathing room?

Dual Brian Williams Must Read Tick Tocks…

Posted in Miscellaneous Subjects on February 11, 2015 by icn2

Got a pair of must reads on the Brian Williams saga. The first is the New York Times’ Emily Steel

Control of the situation quickly passed to Stephen B. Burke, chief executive of NBCUniversal. Thursday afternoon, Mr. Burke called the first of a series of secret meetings, this one at the conference room in the executive suites on the 51st floor. Those present included Patricia Fili-Krushel, chairwoman of NBCUniversal News Group, and Deborah Turness, the president of NBC News. Mr. Williams did not attend.

Mr. Burke acted decisively, according to one person, telling his colleagues to gather the facts so that they could make an expeditious but fair decision. He decided to hold meetings at 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. each day until the issue was resolved.

Mr. Burke sought advice from Mr. Williams’s predecessor, Tom Brokaw, who canceled a vacation in the Virgin Islands to offer his feedback. The two shared uncertainties about the best approach, with Mr. Brokaw expressing concerns about how the episode would affect NBC News employees, according to one person with knowledge of the discussions. Mr. Burke also consulted David L. Cohen, an executive vice president at NBCUniversal’s parent company, Comcast, who was busy on an issue with much higher financial stakes — Comcast’s attempt to gain regulatory approval for a $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable.

Also The Washginton Post’s Manuel Roig-Franzia, Scott Higham and Paul Farhi

Senior NBC officials seriously considered firing anchor Brian Williams because he lied to his viewers about riding in a military helicopter hit by a rocket-propelled grenade during the Iraq war, according to a top network official.

The ultimate decision to suspend Williams for six months was made after an internal investigation unearthed other “instances of exaggeration,” according to a person familiar with intense behind-the-scenes discussions between network officials and Williams.

During those talks, Williams failed to secure a promise that he can return to the anchor chair he has occupied for the past decade, according to two network sources, who like others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive personnel issue.


Internally, Williams, 55, was fighting hard to preserve his reputation and his job. He was calling people at all hours, looking for some kind of an escape route, according to a top network official. “They were clinging to the, ‘Gee I just conflated my facts here’ story,” the network official said.


There is also a sense that the newsroom has been adrift since Comcast Cable took over NBC Universal in 2011. NBC journalists said editors who once kept a close watch over the broadcast have departed, leaving Williams to operate with few meaningful checks and balances.

As managing editor of “NBC Nightly News,” Williams held enormous sway over story selection and over which reporters would appear on his broadcasts. Journalists with serious reputations were forced out or left on their own after the Comcast takeover. The newsroom hasn’t been the same since, several NBC reporters and producers said.

“There are few people who talk to Brian in an authoritative way,” a former top NBC news manager said. “There really wasn’t anyone over him to say anything to him or to question his facts. There was no one managing him. There was constant changing to his whims.

There’s a lot more. Read both stories top to bottom…

Williams’ Suspension: Context…

Posted in Miscellaneous Subjects on February 10, 2015 by icn2

New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman accidentally provides some context to the events that led up to Brian Williams suspension…

NBC News execs are currently deciding the fate of Brian Williams: The Nightly News anchor and his agent met with NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke in the last 24 hours, and were presented with a dossier of Williams’s apparent lies, according to sources. One can only imagine that Williams wishes his anchor escape plan had worked out and that he were the host of The Tonight Show right now.

Brian Williams Suspended Six Months Without Pay…

Posted in Miscellaneous Subjects on February 10, 2015 by icn2

TVNewser’s Mark Joyella writes that Brian Williams has been suspended by NBC for six months without pay.

NBC News has announced that Brian Williams will be suspended as managing editor and anchor of “NBC Nightly News” for six months. NBC News president Deborah Turness says she, along with NBCU CEO Steve Burke and NBC News Group head Pat Fili told Williams of their decision earlier today.

“By his actions, Brian has jeopardized the trust millions of Americans place in NBC News. His actions are inexcusable and this suspension is severe and appropriate,” says Burke in a statement.

While the internal probe, which is ongoing, revealed what anyone who has been following this story for the last 7 days already knows: Williams misrepresented the truth on numerous occasions. “This was wrong and completely inappropriate for someone in Brian’s position,” Turness writes.

A 6-month suspension would return Williams to the air in mid-August, just as the 2016 presidential primaries are getting into high gear. Lester Holt will continue to fill in for Williams.

How the hell can Williams possibly come back from this? I do not see any way this is possible. A one week suspension would be the kind of punishment NBC would dole out if it wanted him back with the idea of rehabilitating his image.

But this is the death penalty of punishments. Its severity and length bring up images of something truly heinous beyond what we already publicly know.

It makes things worse.

It makes it all but impossible for Williams to return as Nightly News anchor.

How can he? Unless NBC is planning on publicly dumping an exhaustive accounting of Williams transgressions, ala the New York Times and Jason Blair, the moment he returns the questions will come back again. Brian Burke thinks he deserves a second chance? You don’t suspend a guy six months if he deserves a second chance.

What this move does do is buy NBC time. Time to continue to investigate. Time to stop the nonstop drip, drip, drip in the media, which if reports are true has been largely aided and abetted by ABC News. Time to figure out the next steps…namely what to do with Williams when his suspension is up.

I believe Brian Williams is done as Nightly News Anchor. I do not see a way back for him there that works for NBC. But NBC may be looking for another avenue for him after six months (to mitigate the sting of that whopping extension he just signed). Or maybe the six months is to plot an exit strategy.

And Because You Can’t Get Enough…More Brian Williams…

Posted in Miscellaneous Subjects on February 10, 2015 by icn2

The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove writes about you know what…it’s a must read for the anonymous quotes…

“The Comcast people have a track record of marching out all these million-dollar figures to buy their way through their problems,” says an NBC News veteran, referring to the Philadelphia-headquartered cable television and broadcasting behemoth, the news division’s parent company. “[Fired Today cohost] Ann Curry cost them a bundle. [Fired Meet the Press moderator] David Gregory cost them a bundle. [Former news president] Steve Capus cost them a bundle. But Brian Williams is different—he’s a $50 million problem. If it was a lot less than that, you’d have to wonder whether they’d keep him.”


“My God, what’s happening to Brian is in the Zeitgeist,” marveled an NBC News wag on Monday. “He’s trumping Bruce Jenner on social media. I mean, cross-dressing Bruce Jenner killed somebody, but Brian Williams is still trending.”


Should Williams somehow fail to pass muster in the probe and be judged damaged goods, Holt—who, like Williams, is 55—is in line to replace him, at least temporarily. Holt, who anchors the Nightly News and the Today show on weekends as well as the weekly magazine show Dateline NBC, has solid journalistic chops and—unlike Williams, who is seen internally at NBC as a remote, insular figure—is widely liked by colleagues. He is also African American. “He’d be a home run in terms of diversity,” says the NBC News veteran. “I think the senior executives have always underestimated him.”


“Tom still has power and influence inside of NBC,” says the NBC News veteran. “He will have great leverage if it comes down to Tom’s decision of whether he’s going to save NBC’s ass by saving Brian. But the problem in their relationship is personal; it’s fractured. It’s not unlike what’s happening in Washington between the president and the Republicans. There’s personal animus between Tom and Brian.”

It dates back at least to Election Night 2012, says the NBC News veteran, when Williams made no secret of his wish to exclude Brokaw from the live coverage. “Brian did not want to be in the same studio as Tom. He thought Tom talked too much and was hard of hearing. He showed Tom tremendous disrespect and Tom knew this and knows this… When Tom wants to get something on Nightly, Brian fights that every step of the way.”

And More Brian Williams…

Posted in Miscellaneous Subjects on February 9, 2015 by icn2

Dan Abrams writes about the Williams controversy on Mediaite. Most of it is subjective so I’m not going to quibble with that. But this part…

I agree with Peter Lauria who wrote in the Hollywood Reporter that Brian may be a larger target because he courted celebrity with a variety of appearances and cameos and “there’s nothing the public likes more than watching a celebrity slowly and painfully fall from grace.” But WIlliams’ success at demonstrating talent (and he has many) beyond that of just a newsman should also help explain why he has been so successful at what he does. Purists will shudder at this suggestion, but this is a different era of news where the public want, even demand, to know their anchors. . . personally. If this had all happened to Scott Pelley for example, this never would have received anything like this sort of attention.

1. Williams may or may not be a larger target because he courted celebrity and I somewhat disagree with the celebrity angle in the next point. But if NBC Nightly News wasn’t #1 and instead was #3 would it still get the same amount of attention? Maybe. Maybe not.

2. Has Williams really courted celebrity? Yes, he’s had his extra-curricular activities which are based not so much on Williams the comedian but on the fact that Williams was the face of NBC News. But he’s never touched Twitter which is for most celebrities who court celebrity an essential platform. So, in my view the case that he’s courted celebrity isn’t nearly so cut and dried.

3. The Scott Pelley analogy seems sound. At first. But when you really start to think about it, the logic falls apart. Williams’ extra curricular activities – not his comedy stuff but his appearances on talk shows and personal appearances at events – are the main source for the problems he now faces. Abrams’ implication is that Pelley because he doesn’t do the things Williams does, the anti-Williams if you will, he never would find himself in this mess.

True. But ultimately beside the point.

If Pelley had started spinning yarns in interviews directly related to his role as a news anchor and he got caught, he’d be facing the exact same firestorm Williams faces. The only thing that’s changed are the circumstances for where the the transgressions took place. Not whether the fallout would take place.

The problem for Brian is that unlike an opinionated cable news host who might have an army of like-minded supporters prepared to fight the social media war, a network news anchor’s support these days is inevitably going to be far less passionate, even for Brian. They may like and appreciate him but few are going to be prepared to do “battle” for him and so it’s hardly surprising that he is generally being skewered by the social media masses.

Also true, but it’s a straw man.

You can’t get like minded supporters in straight news when exaggeration takes place. Who in their right mind is going to support exaggeration in their straight news anchors? You definitely can for ideological talking head cable news. But, if you exchange the conditions for the world Williams operates in – straight broadcast news vs. the world of O’Reilly, Hannity, Maddow, etc. – you exchange the role Williams has in it…going from relatively detached observer to someone with a self-interest in the outcome of the story he tells.

This in turn would bring in the supporters but it would also by definition eliminate the group that counts the most in deciding his fate, the news viewer. News viewers long ago discounted the back and forth ideological crap that airs on cable news as the “freak show”. They don’t care which side is right, or even if there is a right. They’re too busy watching something else. This is why you rarely see any POV host get punished in cable news for ideological transgressions for which the like minded people Abrams references exist. Only in the most extreme cases, and usually when the transgression is offensively personal in nature, is there collateral damage. Network brass are only interested in the ratings and the bigger the ideological controversy the better. You can’t name me a single opinion pundit who hasn’t committed some sort of cardinal sin, in the name of advancing an agenda, which would get a straight anchor fired. But you see straight anchors get nailed for it…especially if the network is located in Georgia.

The Latest On Brian Williams…Certainly To Be Rendered Obsolete In Ohhhh…Twenty Minutes…

Posted in Miscellaneous Subjects on February 7, 2015 by icn2

Fox News’ Howard Kurtz has his own sources and paints a different story about Brian Williams stepping aside…

Brian Williams decided on his own to step aside from his NBC newscast for several days and was under no pressure to do so by network executives, a person familiar with the situation says.

The move on Saturday, developed in consultation with the NBC brass, was not a thinly disguised suspension. In fact, no one, including NBC News President Deborah Turness, suggested that Williams take time off, this person says.

What’s more, according to the source, NBC is not conducting an internal investigation of its anchor, as has been widely reported. The network is engaging in journalistic fact-gathering so it can respond to questions about the crisis created by Williams’ false story about having been in a helicopter in Iraq that was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. That means there will be no report with a finding on his conduct, this person says.

If this version of events is accurate I would revise my opinion of Williams staying to around 80%…


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