For reasons unknown, the network news division is intent on clinging to their discredited anchor.
This week, the major networks are going through their annual tradition of trying to draw in as much interest as possible from advertisers with what is called The Upfronts. Staged at major theaters in New York City, the nets put on flashy multi-media affairs for the press and potential advertisers, with celebrity appearances, video clips of upcoming new shows, and big names from the network announcing the schedules and plans for the coming year.
The NBC upfront event was exactly as expected, with a heavy slot of time allotted to the details surrounding its own Netflix-style streaming service, but also filled with familiar faces to draw the interest of the money people. Seth Meyers came out and gave a somewhat safe comedy monologue, but he managed to deliver one quip that was both stinging and served as an appropriately inappropriate introduction for their news presentation.
“Kathie Lee Gifford left the Today show after 11 years,” said Meyers to the ad executives. “Fun fact—she’s the first person to ever leave The Today Show willingly.”
I’m certain the NBC brass was less than pleased to have one of their talents reminding the moneyed decision-makers of the sex scandal that chased off Ann Curry and rendered the career of NBC News fixture Matt Lauer.
Then again, maybe they did not mind, after all, considering the other move they made to undermine their journalistic credibility. During their usual segment dedicated to their news division, among the many names of newsmakers brought on stage they included disgraced former anchor Brian Williams to speak among their journalism “stars” for the event.
The decision to have Williams is a curious business move, for a couple of reasons. First off, the decision to have a self-discredited member of your news division brought out to tout the veracity of the journalism found at the network is odd, to put things in a generous context. Add to this the fact that Williams’ eventual replacement on Nightly News, Lester Holt, was also on stage at the same time. Nothing like fostering a reminder of what was behind Brian’s departure, while selling the strength of the journalism across the various NBC news networks.
Each of the talking heads — Chuck Todd, Rachel Maddow, Savannah Guthrie among them — read a scripted line, hoping to bolster the news division’s strengths. Williams offered: “Remember when we said the last election would be the most consequential in a decade? We were right.” So sayeth the man known these days for not being right. “This coming year, the world will be watching as we cover perhaps the most consequential election of our lifetime.”
Glazing over the kiddie pool depth of Brian’s quote here (has not every election from the past few decades been elevated with claims of being “the most important election of our generation”?!) why is the network adhering to this particular anchor so ardently?
After his fabricated quotes led to his dismissal from the parent network Williams resurfaced with brief segments on its cable news outlet, eventually earning a regular 11:00 pm on MSNBC. Dispatched to the minors like a pitcher trying to rediscover his curveball Williams became reestablished at his new home, gradually joining panels for major news stories, and then serving point on election coverage. NBC was striving to bring him back to his original stature.
Now the network is trotting him out before important audiences as if he is not a discredited punchline. The main question here is, Why?! Why is NBC so intent to make Brian Williams a “trusted” news source anew, when they have such a broad stable of news talent to draw from for his role? At CBS News they have just gone through a slate of new anchor assignments, placing women in those key roles, an effort to distance itself from scandals of sexual harassment.
But at NBC they cling to the fallen. It is almost as if they want to insist that they can tell the audience what is actually ethically proper in journalism. It certainly appears they are disinterested in correcting the actions that have discredited them for years.