Brian Williams in a major crisis that should and likely will cost him his job


Liars pay.

Liars who apologize usually pay.

Liars whose profession demands complete honesty and whose credibility is central to their role and performance become hypocrites and pay dearly.

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams is in quicksand. I would bet he’ll lose his job as the nation’s top-rated anchor, as he should.

Stars and Stripes reported that he lied about being on a helicopter in Iraq in 2003 that crashed due to enemy fire. Crew members said he wasn’t. Last night he admitted he wasn’t and blamed it on confusion caused by subsequent chopper rides.

Sorry, if you were in a crash — a singular, life-changing event — or you were not, you’d know. And, it’s compounded because you let your network repeat that canard in promotions and other reports for 12 years.

brianMy speculation is that Williams, following in the footsteps of the exalted “Greatest Generation” anchor Tom Brokaw felt he needed some creds with war veterans. NBC goes out of its way to — justifiably — tell vets’ stories. So Williams apparently stretched the truth.

Understandable. Unforgivable.

You cannot anchor a national newscast that reports on people lying and doing other bad things when you’ve admitted lying yourself.

As a personal crisis, there is no greater sin. Perhaps he has enough standing at his network to avoid a sacking. But I feel his credibility — the coin of the realm for any journalist — is shot. Just because he comes into millions of homes each evening doesn’t make him any different from other journalists who lied and got caught and were fired. Google Janet Cooke.

Media critic Howard Kurtz wrote the following:

The admission raises serious questions about his credibility in a business that values that quality above all else. Williams is the longest-serving network anchor, his “NBC Nightly News” has been No. 1 in the ratings for nearly all of the last decade … For such a high-profile journalist to acknowledge that he essentially invented a story that dramatized his bravery in a war zone is hard to fathom.

No amount of apologies can restore Williams’ credibility, create trust in the future, or change the past.

Bring on Lester Holt.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

 

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About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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