Archive for the Miscellaneous Subjects Category

Williams Ordered to Take Time Off?

Posted in Miscellaneous Subjects on February 7, 2015 by icn2

FTVLive is reporting that Brian’s decision wasn’t really Brian’s decision…

“Brian was basically told that he is taking time off,” said a NBC staffer to FTVLive.

Williams released a statement earlier today that said he was going to step away from Nightly News for “several days.”

NBC insiders tell FTVLive that although they like Brian Williams, they really feel like there is no way Williams can survive this. They feel that his reputation and that of the news division are too damaged right now.

“The only way we (NBC News) recovers is if Brian resigns,” said one NBC insider to FTVLive.

I still think it’s survivable as long as all the digging that’s going on doesn’t turn up more examples of Williams inaccurate statements. But the signs do seem to point to the notion that NBC isn’t too keen on that strategy…

My Assessment Of Brian Williams…

Posted in Miscellaneous Subjects on February 7, 2015 by icn2

Five years ago, I tossed up a poll question; “Which news anchor bears the closest resemblance to William Hurt’s character in the 1980s movie ‘Broadcast News’?” At the time I said I was in a mischievous mood but the truth was I was on a fishing expedition. I wanted to see how much of what I observed as a news connoisseur was observed by others or whether my intuition and appraisal of certain news talents were views shared by others. I didn’t give away who I voted for because I didn’t want to pollute the results.

Like a lot of people I remember Williams from his White House days and his days at MSNBC. But those are such tightly controlled environments. I really got my first taste of Williams in the Iraq War and what he did there left an indelible mark that I have never been able to shake. I have told this story before.

At the start of the war there was the big “shock and awe” bombing campaign where command and control facilities were strategically and precisely taken out with big bombs. I had been channel hopping through the coverage but happened to be on MSNBC. Williams was reporting from Kuwait at the time and he made a comment, the precise verbiage escapes me and I haven’t been able to find a direct quote online except this one, that this was like Dresden.
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Williams Williams Williams

Posted in Miscellaneous Subjects on February 7, 2015 by icn2

I’m running out of creative titles so that will have to do. The New York Daily News’ Don Kaplan, David Hinkley, and Corky Siemaszko write about..uh..someting…I forget…

Also, Ben Sherwood, the president of Disney-ABC Television Group, has put together a “secret task force” to comb through years of footage to see if Williams has told any other tall tales, the sources said. ABC officials strongly denied the task force’s existence.

The scandal has left the reporters and producers who work with Williams “shocked, furious and sad.” And they fear that the reputation of an anchor many considered “the most trusted name in news” has been wrecked, the sources said.

Seems unlikely. This is one of those stories you don’t need to juice. But that doesn’t mean Sherwood isn’t that conniving…

Williams made no mention of the swirling controversy in his Friday newscast and sources said he continues to man the chair because NBC has not groomed anyone to succeed him.

Lester Holt is considered “more of a cable guy,” they said. And the other option would be replacing him on an interim basis with “Today” show hosts Matt Lauer or Savannah Guthrie.

Lester Holt is a “cable guy”? WTF? He’s on Weekend Today. He’s on Dateline. He’s on Weekend Nightly. What channel does those programs air on? Not MSNBC…

Brian Williams Takes Himself Off Nightly

Posted in Miscellaneous Subjects on February 7, 2015 by icn2

TVNewser’s Mark Joyella writes that Brian Williams is stepping away from Nightly News for a few days…

Brian Williams will step aside from “NBC Nightly News” for the next “several days” to address questions raised about a story Williams told of being in a helicopter hit by an RPG over Iraq in 2003–a story widely discredited.

In an email obtained by TVNewser, Williams told NBC News staff his presence on the network newscast had become a distraction. “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.”

This is huge. I was all but certain Williams would be staying at Nightly but taking this step opens up this story on a bigger level. I would now put Williams staying at Nightly at slightly less than 50-50…

The idea that stepping away for “a few days” is going to make a difference in deflating this distraction seems farcical. This story doesn’t blow over in a few days unless there’s a way to exonerate Williams completely from everything. There isn’t…we already know he fudged something. That doesn’t die down in a “few days”.

And stepping away from Nightly isn’t the answer to address this mess. Talking completely, forthrightly, and publicly is the answer (though I already wrote that we can’t trust it).

It’s not clear to me at all what stepping away “for a few days” accomplishes.

Brian Williams Done?

Posted in Miscellaneous Subjects on February 6, 2015 by icn2

FTVLive posted a highly speculative piece that Deborah Turness is thinking heavily about dumping Brian Williams…maybe next week.

Sources tell FTVLive that NBC News President Deborah Turness is strongly considering having Brian Williams step down, maybe as early as next week.

As FTVLive earlier told you, Turness has launched an internal investigation in the Williams’ statement regarding the events in Iraq in 2003 and other stories including what the Anchor said in his Katrina coverage.

Sources say that Turness has not yet decided what to do with Williams but is “leaning in the direction” of having him step down.

Sources tell FTVLive that Turness has short list of replacements for Williams and the names could raise a few eyebrows.

They are – Lester Holt, Jose Diaz Balart, and Peter Alexander.

I suppose Turness could be leaning towards dropping Williams but the timing is a little weird. Next week? NBC would barely have time to do the kind of investigation it launched unless it’s a 24/7 operation. So why mull tossing Williams if the facts aren’t in yet? That doesn’t make sense. But neither did Turness’ approach to dealing with the David Gregory situation.

If there’s any truth to this, it means I seriously underestimated NBC’s position in dealing with this crisis. I wouldn’t have called the investigation a white wash no matter how it turned out but it did have the feel of an investigation for the sake of having an investigation…not an investigation to determine Williams’ fate. That appraisal may have been an error on my part. We shall see.

Now to that short list…

Okay, NBC has an incredibly short bench to pick from and this (partial) list reflects that. I would be flabbergasted if it was either Diaz-Balart or Alexander. Neither has a big enough pedigree at NBC News as far as anchoring is concerned. Diaz-Balart has a well established one on Spanish language TV but he’s only been anchoring MSNBC for a little more than half a year. I don’t think it’s enough for NBC to pick him. Alexander? Even less anchoring experience.

Savannah Guthrie would be, on its face, an odd choice. NBC has finally gotten Today to settle down and the tumult from the Curry fiasco is definitely in the rear view mirror. If NBC did pick Guthrie, that could throw both Today and Nightly into turmoil with viewers. On the other hand NBC could feel that Tamron Hall or Natalie Morales would be able to fill the void.

Still I think the clear choice would be Holt. He’s been doing Weekend Nightly and a lot of subbing for Williams for years and, at 55, he still has some years left in the tank. Having him in the chair would give NBC time to properly develop a long term David Muir-ish type talent solution.

But this is all still premature. The investigation may not find anything more than what’s already out there and Williams stays, or, a little more is found but Turness decides to stay the course and see what happens.

NBC’s Delaying Action…

Posted in Miscellaneous Subjects on February 6, 2015 by icn2

The New York Daily News’ Corky Siemaszko writes about an internal NBC News investigation on Brian Williams…

“NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams is now the target of an internal investigation for lying about dodging danger while reporting in Iraq, sources told The Daily News.

The probe is being led by Richard Esposito, who heads NBC’s investigative unit, they said.

Esposito previously worked as an investigative correspondent at ABC and before that was an editor at The Daily News.

The revelation that Williams is being probed by sleuths at his own network came as his predecessor publicly denied urging NBC bosses to can the anchorman.

And I want to cite from this Deborah Turness memo that TVNewser has posted

Yesterday, Brian and I spoke to the Nightly News team. And this morning at the Editorial Exchange, we both addressed the wider group. Brian apologized once again, and specifically expressed how sorry he is for the impact this has had on all of you and on this proud organization.

As you would expect, we have a team dedicated to gathering the facts to help us make sense of all that has transpired. We’re working on what the best next steps are – and when we have something to communicate we will of course share it with you.

Add the second part to the first part and you get a good idea of the kind of investigation that will likely be run and its purpose…

For one thing, this won’t be the Thornburgh report where outsiders are hired to dig in to what happened. This will be an internal investigation.

And because this was never officially announced via release, but rather leaked out to select media outlets, we can assume it will be an “unofficially official” investigation…more in line with what CBS did with Lara Logan.

We should not expect to see results published unless a Kryptonite warhead is discovered that forces Williams out of the network.

We should not expect any sort of accounting beyond pithy “We have completed an investigation…blah…blah…blah…while there were some issues…blah…blah…blah…we consider the matter closed.”

Remember, this isn’t an independent external investigation meant to check every nook and cranny of Brian Williams’ life. This is an internal NBC controlled investigation designed to give the appearance of due diligence.

Like the Logan review at CBS and the Zakaria review at CNN. Not at all like the Thornburgh committee investigation.

This is one part investigation and two parts PR move. It does two things. It gives the appearance that NBC is taking it seriously (there’s taking things seriously and then there’s taking things seriously) and it does a very good job of, at least temporarily, freezing the story from advancing on NBC’s doorstep.

Now NBC can hunker down and wait for this to die off and then issue its pithy summary of the findings from its internal investigation which the full version will never see the light of day. That’s what the cynics would say and they would have some justification for saying so.

Consider the way Turness kept including Williams in the timeline of her memo. In Poker this would be considered a tell. The implication is one of family…of being a unified team still. Turness and Williams addressed the news team. Turness and Williams addressed the Editorial Exchange. “we have a team dedicated to gathering the facts to help us make sense of all that has transpired.”

So how do “we” fairly investigate a guy who could have easily spilled the beans, whatever they may be, internally to the news team, to the Editorial Exchange, and be done with it. And why do “we” need to make sense of all that transpired when one of “we” could have spilled the beans, whatever they may be, internally to the news team, to the Editorial Exchange, and be done with it.

There’s something very hinky about all this. The pieces just do not fit together. Either Williams has completely blanked it as far as his memory goes or he’s as pathologically smooth as Lance Armstrong was in parsing out lies, half-truths, and embellishments.

Either way, we can tell from what Turness did today and how she kept Williams part of the process, that she’s currently buying what he’s selling. Otherwise NBC would have launched an independent investigation and Williams’ internal apologies would have come by email instead of team meetings because Turness would have wanted to put some distance between the two of them.

So add up the publicly unanounced internal investigation and the lack of separation between Williams and Turness and you start getting a feel for how NBC wants this to play out. Whether they’ll get the opportunity to play it out that way…that’s another matter.

The Truth Is Out There…Just Don’t Go Looking For Brian Williams To Provide It…

Posted in Miscellaneous Subjects on February 6, 2015 by icn2

CNN’s Brian Stelter writes the following…

The NBC P.R. person now says the network can’t confirm which person piloted Williams’ helicopter. The situation remains murky and many questions remain unanswered. (There is somebody that can clear a lot of this up — and that’s Williams.)

Nope. Williams can no longer clear this up. I’ll get to why in a moment…

There are two and only two possible narratives at play here:

Narrative A: Brian Williams indeed has a foggy memory.

Narrative B: Brian Williams outright lied (or embellished) and knew he was doing so.

That’s it. There is no Narrative C.

If it’s Narrative A, Stelter is out of luck because Williams can’t remember the details accurately. So how are we to believe that any possible future remembrances are accurate when he’s already stated his memory is foggy? We can’t.

If it’s Narrative B, Stelter in all likelihood is still out of luck. If Williams prevaricated and knew he was doing so, doubling back on his previous explanation makes him out to be an even bigger liar than people thought he was. And that’s it. He’s done at NBC.

Boom! NBC’s News Division comes crashing down the same way CBS’ News Division came crashing down at the end of Dan Rather’s career.

Think about it. If it was total BS, a lot of other people (not all of them still in NBC’s employ) get dragged into what is usually a Washington D.C. pastime; “What did they know and when did they know it?” It will almost certainly bring NBC News down. ABC News will take over as the #1 nightly news broadcast and NBC will be spending the next five years trying to right the ship Brian Williams self-torpedoed.

Because of all that, the chances of Narrative B leading to a clearing of the air seem like too high a stakes gamble for Williams to contemplate at this point.

This is why I say to Brian Stelter, it’s highly unlikely you’ll get the clearing of the air you seek from Brian Williams.

The wild card is NBC. Right now, it’s in bunker mode and praying night and day that this blows over. But if it becomes apparent to NBC that it’s not going to blow over, that things are trending south and ratings damage is being done, then de-circling the wagons around Williams becomes an increasingly palatable option. If your news division is in the process of crashing down because of one man, you’re going to look long and hard at removing the cause of the crash to stop the damage infliction. NBC could decide to clear the air itself and pin it all on a shifty Williams.

But the above only applies to Narratve B. If Narrative A is the real deal, NBC has to ride this out and so does Williams.

I still lay odds, based on what we know right now, that Williams stays. If CBS can keep Lara Logan on staff and CNN can keep Fareed Zakaria on staff by making use of some incredibly tortured explanations that don’t stand up to close scrutiny, I see no reason why NBC couldn’t keep Williams via similar means.

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