Archive for the Miscellaneous Subjects Category

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%…

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.

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