As the Brian Williams’ saga continues — albeit now behind the scenes as he announced Saturday he would ‘Temporarily” step back from his anchor’s chair — everything he’s said and done is under scrutiny.
Soon we’re going to get stories about whether his hair is real.
Judging from the intense readership I’ve witnessed on this topic, it’s still white hot.
Media critic Ken Auletta, writing in The New Yorker, makes excellent observations about NBC’s complicity in all this, as well as the image building that surrounds TV anchors.
But, while the spotlight is on Williams’s transgressions, a word about the complicity of NBC and the other networks’ marketing machines. The networks have a stake in promoting their anchors as God-like figures. By showing them in war zones, with Obama or Putin, buffeted by hurricanes, and comforting victims, they are telling viewers that their anchors are truth-tellers who have been everywhere and seen everything and have experience you can trust. On his helicopter in Iraq, Williams was accompanied by an NBC crew. Did they not speak up to correct the record for fear of undermining the powerful anchor? NBC had a stake in promoting Brian Williams as all-knowing, just as a promo ad for ABC anchor David Muir I saw today portrayed the lightly experienced forty year old as worldly. Brian Williams has valuable experience reporting from the White House, but unlike ABC’s Peter Jennings, or Dan Rather for “60 Minutes,” he has never been a correspondent overseas. (Anchoring a broadcast from Baghdad or Moscow is not comparable.)
Top NBC News executives met with NBC Universal CEO Steve Bufke at Burke’s home over the weekend to discuss Williams’ future, POLITICO’s Mike Allen reported. Former anchor Tom Brokaw has emerged as a loud voice in the discussions, with Allen reporting that he is wary of some of Williams’ claims. http://politi.co/18IzEdG
If you were Brian Williams, what would you do — especially, as Auletta goes on to note, thousands of internet sleuths are out for bear? Now there are reports that he may have fabricated a story about a job he had selling Christmas trees for a church in Red Bank, NJ when he was mugged at gunpoint.
True or not, the real surprise here is that he got away with fibbing and lying and embellishing for so long — but not forever. You’ll always get caught at some point.
The only defense is telling the truth. And, the only way to maintain some semblance of reputation is to resign, admit to the lies and start over.
The sooner the better, too. The outcry won’t end until he either quits, or all the facts come out and he’s fired.
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.