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.