Tags: Media Bias

Anchors Away for Williams

Thursday, 30 April 2015 01:27 PM Current | Bio | Archive

“Why hasn’t NBC pulled the plug and said, ‘anchor aweigh?’ It owes nothing to Williams, since he broke his end of the bargain. Keeping him in limbo is getting the network the worst of both worlds: the digging will continue, more negative stories reflecting on the network will surface, and they will end up cutting ties anyway. So why wait?”

So said this columnist three months ago about disgraced (and currently suspended) NBC News anchor Brian Williams. Predictably, it all came to pass. That prescience was not an uncanny ability to see the future, but common sense.

Stunningly, NBC News executives have yet to fire Williams, to the detriment of not just the news bureau, but the entire network.

And because of that error, born from indecisiveness, misplaced loyalty, sheer ineptitude, or all three — events have unfolded as anticipated: the investigations of Williams have continued, producing more examples of the anchor’s embellished reporting and further destroying his credibility.

Now, embarrassing stories are being leaked daily, ostensibly by the network, in an attempt to shame Williams into resigning. This would, according to reports, allow Williams to take “only” 20 or 30 million of his $50 million contract as he fades away, rather than NBC facing litigation.

Stop. What the hell is happening? Why all the cloak-and-dagger backchannel maneuvers when Williams should, and absolutely could, be fired for cause with zero payout? Are the NBC executives staggeringly incompetent, or just cowards? Because there is no third option.

It has been reported that Williams has a morality clause. The public morals clause for NBC News’ employees reportedly reads:

“If artist commits any act or becomes involved in any situation, or occurrence, which brings artist into public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule, or which justifiably shocks, insults or offends a significant portion of the community, or if publicity is given to any such conduct . . . company shall have the right to terminate.”

Assuming Williams has such a clause, give him credit for consistency. He seems to have violated every part of it. Consider:
  • Is Williams the “artist” (con artist?) viewed with public disrepute? Well, he fell from Number 23 to 835 in a “most-trusted person in the country” survey.
  • Contempt? Many of his colleagues, both within NBC and throughout the wider media, hold Williams in palpable contempt for his actions, since he tainted not just the industry but, in a guilt-by-association way, everyone in it.
  • Scandal? Yep, a lying news anchor whose hole keeps getting deeper definitely qualifies as a juicy scandal, which is why it remains a top worldwide story. Three strikes, yet he’s not out.
  • Ridicule? Williams has been the butt of jokes on late night talk shows, at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and even on NBC’s own Saturday Night Live. And Williams’ conduct has generated massive publicity since it “shocked, insulted and offended a significant portion of the community,” which is why he’s been suspended.

On top of it all, NBC News experienced a total viewer loss for the first time since September, 2009, and, more significant, lost the top news spot after 288 consecutive weeks being Number One.

NBC’s bad publicity and declining ratings have given advertisers leverage to negotiate lower pricing, which affects revenue. So if the network stands to lose considerable dollars as long as this saga continues, why would NBC give Williams another penny?

In doing so, they would be sending the unmistakable message that cheaters do prosper, and that it’s acceptable to do whatever is needed to get ahead, truth be damned. For the young generation that’s already value-impaired, such a move will only add more ammunition to the their do-whatever-you-want mentality.

And how exactly would it work bringing Williams back? How could he challenge a world leader or presidential candidate on embellishing the truth, or skirting it altogether? He can’t, and no amount of time will ever change that. His credibility as a journalist, editor, anchor, and ultimately, as a person, is nonexistent. So bringing him back would only cause bigger problems for NBC, and its parent company, Comcast.

Comcast is an extremely well-run business, one with little tolerance for these types of bad-news dramas. It is therefore surprising that its leaders have allowed this unwinnable situation to fester.

Williams should have the class to walk away now, without seeking another dime. But if he doesn’t, and if that means nasty litigation, so be it. Comcast’s pockets are deep enough to fight a frivolous lawsuit. And in doing so, it would score a major coup in the court of public opinion.

NBC and Comcast need to do the right thing, once and for all cutting itself away from the “anchor.” Only then can its sunken image begin to be refloated.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, Freindly Fire Zone Media. Read more reports from Chris Freind — Click Here Now.

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Stunningly, NBC News executives have yet to fire Williams, to the detriment of not just the news bureau, but the entire network.
Media Bias
Thursday, 30 April 2015 01:27 PM
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