Tags: Sesno | nightly | news | Williams | NBC

GW Media Professor Frank Sesno: Brian Williams 'Not Too Big to Fail'

By    |   Saturday, 07 February 2015 08:25 PM

The spiraling scandal over Brian Williams and his portrayals of his Iraq reporting for NBC News — leading him Saturday to temporarily suspend himself from news broadcasts — proves that he is "not too big to fail," George Washington University media professor Frank Sesno said.

"Dan Rather was not too big to fail," Sesno told CNN. "These crises, these scandals … tend to have a dynamic, and there's a careful balance that NBC has to make."

Sesno, director of the university's School of Media and Public Affairs, was referring to Rather's firing from CBS News in 2006 after a report on "60 Minutes II" alleging that family connections kept then-President George W. Bush from serving in Vietnam.

The report was based on falsified documents supplied by a retired Texas National Guard official who had long criticized Bush.

Rather, who lost a lawsuit in 2009 against the network over his firing, had anchored "The CBS Evening News" for 24 years. He had worked at CBS for 44 years.

In a note to his staff on Saturday, Williams said that he was temporarily stepping aside because the controversy over claims that he was traveling in a military helicopter when it was shot and forced down in Iraq in 2003 detracted from the "NBC Nightly News" and its staff.

Lester Holt, 55, who has been at the network since 2005 and has regularly anchored both "Nightly News" and weekend editions of "Today," will take over temporarily. Holt mentioned the change on Saturday's broadcast.

Williams, also 55, made the decision on Saturday. He assumed the anchor's chair from Tom Brokaw in 2004.

"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," he wrote. "As Managing Editor of NBC Nightly News, I have decided to take myself off of my daily broadcast for the next several days."

With Holt sitting in, the break will "allow us to adequately deal with this issue," Williams said. "Upon my return, I will continue my career-long effort to be worthy of the trust of those who place their trust in us."

While Syracuse University professor Robert Thompson welcomed the investigation, he told CNN that the network should have put Williams on leave on Wednesday, the night of his apology.

"NBC had all of the internal data they needed Wednesday night when Brian Williams made that apology," Thompson said. "They should have then done his several days leave of absence — as opposed to waiting until this uncomfortable Thursday and Friday, when Williams delivered the news.

"I think this demonstrates once again that in this era, where decisions need to be made on a second-by-second basis, this decision would have been an easy one to make 48 hours ago," he said.

Thompson, founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse, called Williams "the golden goose at NBC News."

Still, he added, "I think Wednesday night anybody rationally could have said this is a decision that has to be made — and it ought to be made, and it ought to have been made then as opposed to today."

Sesno said that NBC had a number of factors to consider on Williams' future with the network. He signed a five-year contract in December.

"They have to balance their loyalty to Brian," he said. "He has a long track record.

"They have to balance out his ability to pull off a big audience and even — most importantly in my view, anyway — they have to figure out how their own institutional credibility is on the line here."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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The spiraling scandal over Brian Williams and his portrayals of his Iraq reporting for NBC News - leading him Saturday to temporarily suspend himself from news broadcasts - proves that he is not too big to fail, George Washington University media professor Frank Sesno...
Sesno, nightly, news, Williams, NBC
Saturday, 07 February 2015 08:25 PM
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