I don’t know what to think about Brian Williams. On the one hand? Almost certainly a chronic exaggerator, maybe an utter fabulist. Depressingly, none of this really matters in the performance of his job. The olden days when an anchor was a real journalist are pretty much over; while they might be trotted out to do standups here and there, the producers do the heavy lifting.
When Don Lemon, CNN’s barking idiot, tweeted a photo of his smallpox scar a few days ago and called it a measles scar, and this after speculating on the air that a Malaysian jetliner might have been swallowed by a black hole, I expressed frustration to a member of the NN.c commentariat. He replied:
I think Don Lemon is just fine when you put news stories on a teleprompter and ask him to read them in sequence.
I think William Hurt’s character in Broadcast News was just fine when you put news stories on a teleprompter and ask him to read them in sequence.
That, however, has long ceased to be the CNN “anchor” job description.
I think that’s true everywhere, with maybe a few exceptions. If you have the right look, a modicum of charisma, can read a prompter and are relatively quick on your feet in a live-interview situation, and as long as you have that elusive something that makes you one in a few million — you too can be a network news anchor. It’s not an easy bunch of qualifications to wrangle under one handsome head.
Of course, once you’ve attained this level, you have to deal with this sort of thing, i.e., co-workers trashing you anonymously:
“Brian is deeply disliked inside NBC—extremely unpopular. The people at NBC are loving this,” says someone in the know. Why? “Because he enjoys being a celebrity too much.” He also doesn’t pull his weight. “He never comes in in the morning”—as a managing editor, you should. “He calls in from his apartment and shows up around lunch time, has a fancy lunch with some important person, and then at the 2:30 production meeting—close to air time—he tears everything up.”
They pay him an eight-figure salary. I expect this is part of the deal.
And now Williams has been suspended for six months, effectively ending his career. Seems a big waste of…something, but I’m not sure what.
So. What sort of bloggage am I in the mood for?
This arrived on the radar yesterday, and nobody knows how it happened. Good for the Vipers, though.
The slut shot, i.e., the HPV vaccine, does NOT turn girls into whore-monsters. Such a relief.
An oral history of Laurel Canyon in the ’60s and ’70s. Love that Joni Mitchell.
Now, I must go to bed before I collapse.
Dexter said on February 11, 2015 at 1:20 am
Thank God Samuel Clemens wasn’t a new anchor…he’d have lasted five minutes with NBC management.
So what if Brian Williams told a few whoppers? He reports on the biggest liars and truth distorters, such as Colin Powell and all the characters from the WBush years.
Brian liked to tell a few stories, slightly ( 🙂 ) embellished, but so what? Many people poke fun at the ages of the NBC Nightly News viewers, saying we’re all old senile codgers and crones anyway… so if that’s true, let us keep our storyteller to amuse us, goddammitt! Yeah, I’m a fan, and this is a fucking country of forgiveness, right? So now NBC sticks us with robotic Lester Holt for six months or eternity?
I don’t like the other anchors so I’ll continue to watch or record old Lester, but sheesh…NBC coming out appearing to be the bearers of “Truth the American Way” is just so much bullshit. I think of tales , lies, spun from Fox News over the years and I think of Monica Crowley defending fucking Dick Cheney’s every move. I think of CBS showing Hillary Rodham Clinton setting in Baghdad’s Green Zone sipping an iced tea telling the American people how splendidly the American adventure in Iraq was progressing. So the news anchor gets basically shit-canned for embellishing otherwise dull stories? Ain’t that America, ohhhh, yeah. 🙁
Sherri said on February 11, 2015 at 2:39 am
The most interesting thing I’ve read about Williams was from the NYTimes:
Mr. Williams, who succeeded Mr. Brokaw in 2004, transcended the news division, and had ambitions beyond the anchor chair. About five years ago, as NBC was contemplating who would eventually replace Jay Leno as host of “The Tonight Show,” he told top NBC executives that he was interested in becoming a late-night host, possibly succeeding Mr. Leno. They called the idea ridiculous, telling him that he was a journalist, not a comedian, and to stick to the news department, according to two industry executives with knowledge of the discussions.
As I’ve said, my biggest gripe with Williams is his non-apology.
Joe K said on February 11, 2015 at 3:48 am
Great piece on the Vipers, must be a proud Mom&Dad, the canyon story was a good read also plus some great pictures. A rolls Royce? With Peter Tork.
David C. said on February 11, 2015 at 7:05 am
Great photos of Kate’s headstock.
coozledad said on February 11, 2015 at 8:07 am
We were in Durham just a few days ago, and had a veggie platter at a falafel place near the old Salaam cultural center. I was wondering when some bloated cracker would pull a stunt like this.
I wonder if this guy tied dogs to a tree and beat them to death when he was younger, like Mike Huckabee’s boy.
alex said on February 11, 2015 at 8:10 am
Laurel Canyon’s a fun read. Wish it were more in-depth than it is. Wish I had time to finish it to the end this morning. What strikes me most about it is that there isn’t much talk about big egos.
As regards Brian Williams, I’ll reiterate what I said in the last thread. Lara Logan, “real journalist,” just had her own six-month suspension for blatant dishonesty in her reporting on Benghazi. It’s her career that ought to be over. Now she’s back on the air like nothing ever happened. If there were any justice, Dan Rather would have kept his job. At least the substance of Rather’s story on Dubya was true even if he overreached in trying to prove his case. I suspect Rather’s firing was also revenge for the way he treated Big Bush during an interview in the late 1980s; he wasn’t deferential and his hardball questions on live TV made Big Bush turn very shrill and defensive.
ROGirl said on February 11, 2015 at 8:23 am
Brian seems to have conflated news with entertainment, but that is what the networks have done. After all, Disney owns ABC and Comcast owns NBC.
(I messed up my email address on my previous post)
beb said on February 11, 2015 at 8:37 am
I’m more upset that Jon Stewart is leaving The Daily Show more than I am Brian Williams being suspended for six months. The only person I can think of to replace Stewart already has his own show (John Oliver). For NBC I always liked Lester Holt than I did Williams so the suspension there is actually a good think. Whether Williams comes back will depend on how many more acts of resume inflation come to light. People are already questioning whether he really saw dead bodies floating in flooded New Orleans and now some are questioning whether he was hassled by gangs during the flood. The irony is that compared to Fox news Williams is a monument to probity.
Bitter Scribe said on February 11, 2015 at 10:11 am
I don’t really understand the people who are defending Williams. The gap between “I saw a chopper get hit” and “I was in a chopper that got hit” is too big to be explained by “memory is tricky.”
That said, Jon Stewart (and I will truly miss him) had the best take: At last, someone is being held accountable for lying about the Iraq war.
Deborah said on February 11, 2015 at 10:25 am
Loved the Laurel Canyon link. I read a biography of Joni awhile back, there was a lot in it about that era. I was in college during that time, makes me nostalgic to think about that music.
Ver cool about the Vipers, Kate must be ecstatic. Good for her.
ROGirl said on February 11, 2015 at 10:44 am
Given the wall-to-wall saturation of all the nightly news programs with ads for Viagra, Metamucil and other products and drugs for people eligible to join AARP, maybe it’s time for the networks to eliminate them or try something different (not sure what that would be).
jcburns said on February 11, 2015 at 10:46 am
To quote Broadcast News, “I say it here and it comes out there.” My all time favorite IFB joke.
adrianne said on February 11, 2015 at 12:04 pm
So Brian Williams is a bit of a dick to his co-workers? Quelle surprise. At any rate, I think the six-month suspension is probably appropriate. Lara Logan’s sins actually centered around the journalism, not the talk about “how I got that story.”
Sherri said on February 11, 2015 at 12:09 pm
If a celebrity news reader is all that is required for the news anchor job, then I think we can be creative and do a lot better than the group of boring white men we have now. I nominate Olivia Munn; she’s a celebrity, and has experience with the “news”.
Scout said on February 11, 2015 at 12:58 pm
Brian?… who?… cares?
On the other hand, Jon Stewart leaving? OMFG, I am in mourning. This can’t be happening. It’s like when Janet Napolitano decided that being director of Homeland Security was such a better gig than being Gov of AZ and left us in the hands of Jan ‘Bonefinger’ Brewer. No, it’s even worse than that. Nobody else comes even remotely close to the truth in news.
The Deadly Vipers are on the map and I am enjoying the heck out of watching them go places. Congrats to all of them and to their parents.
alex said on February 11, 2015 at 1:44 pm
I generally don’t even watch NBC news but I might start watching Lester Holt, whom I remember from his days as a local anchor on WBBM in Chicago. We used to frequent the same Starbucks each morning at Ontario and St. Clair back in the ’90s. My fave barista there was a drag queen known as Joan Jett Black, who took her act to San Francisco and ran for mayor. Her theatrical credits include the hysterically funny “Womandingo.”
Jakash said on February 11, 2015 at 1:53 pm
I’m surprised that nobody has posted this here yet. I think it’s something that most of y’all will enjoy, and it seems like something that coozledad might have written, if he had to watch his language. ; ) Neil Steinberg, with a creative take on the Alabama judges who are refusing to issue marriage licenses to certain couples…
Kirk said on February 11, 2015 at 2:31 pm
Thanks for sharing the Laurel Canyon story. I’m thinking that the reporter, Lisa Robinson, once edited a magazine called 16, which had all sorts of silly stuff about the Beatles, Stones, Dave Clark Five, etc., etc.
Dexter@1: Robotic Lester Holt indeed. The first time I saw him on the tube I thought it was Max Headroom.
Sherri said on February 11, 2015 at 2:32 pm
I don’t watch TV news, national or local, so I don’t really care that much about who reads it. I don’t care that much about how much Brian William exaggerated his experiences in order to not let the truth get in the way of a good story. What I do care about very much is the lack of accountability and responsibility among our elites, who never seem to make mistakes but rather “mistakes were made.” Contrasted with all the rhetoric from our elites about how the poor among us need to take more responsibility, the whole situation makes me angry.
All I ask is a real apology. Here’s what I did. It was wrong. Here’s what I will do to make it right. I won’t do it again.
Kirk said on February 11, 2015 at 2:53 pm
Brian Williams’ job was delivering the news. There’s no room for bullshitting in that job. He bullshat, so good riddance to him.
Bruce Fields said on February 11, 2015 at 3:08 pm
“The gap between “I saw a chopper get hit” and “I was in a chopper that got hit” is too big to be explained by “memory is tricky.””
I dunno. I’ve got no experience with such things outside the movies.
In a movie they can cut between a gun, a close-up of bullet hole, the pilot shouting “we’ve been hit!” and a wide shot with some convenient smoke and wobbling.
In person I imagine it’s all just immense noise and fear and confusion and people shouting, and maybe you hear something about fire, and you’re lucky if afterwards you manage to get someone to explain clearly what just happened.
But, that’s just my imagination. I’m very far from having any opinion about any TV anchor.
Bob (not Greene) said on February 11, 2015 at 3:19 pm
Funny thing regarding Lester Holt … Not sure, since it’s been a couple of years since I was called to jury duty, but the last time I got called it was at the Daley Center in Chcago. They kick off the morning with a little video about “Your Job as a Juror” for the assembled throng — starring Lester Holt, with dark hair and a mustache. Thing had to be 20 years old.
Judybusy said on February 11, 2015 at 3:49 pm
Sherri, I so agree with everything you said. I don’t watch TV news, either. I listen to NPR and read this site! I also catch The Week and browse the NYT.
I can definitely see how talented Kate and the Deadly Vipers are, even though it’s not my kind of music. Very cool to get a mention!
Snarkworth said on February 11, 2015 at 4:04 pm
I like Lester Holt. I like an anchor who stays in the background and lets the stories tell themselves.
It matters when a newsperson fibs. People were fighting for their lives in New Orleans, and he contributed to the sense that the city was populated by a bunch of thugs who deserved what they got.
Jolene said on February 11, 2015 at 4:20 pm
In a column on the flap over Brian Williams, David Brooks generates criteria for “rigorous forgiveness”. Worth a look.
Jolene said on February 11, 2015 at 4:42 pm
David Letterman has noticed a few more things Brian Williams said that might not be true.
MichaelG said on February 11, 2015 at 5:39 pm
One of the points is that Williams was supposed to be better than and above the antics of a lot of the other news readers. Turns out he wasn’t. He was supposed to set the standard. Turns out it was a low one. I think NBC was about ready to let things ride until it suddenly became clear that their credibility and integrity were on the table as well as their star’s. Somebody, I forget who, coined a term for Williams’ offense. It’s called stolen valor. What an apt term. I like Holt just fine and I’ll be just fine if Williams fades off into the sunset. Ta, Brian.
Great stuff about Kate and the band. It must be so gratifying and make a mom and dad feel so proud. It makes me feel good.
I loved that Laurel Canyon piece. I had occasion to see Linda Ronstadt several times in ’69-’70. Up close too. There’s just no saying what a beautiful, sensual woman she was in those days. My God. I was in lust with her for years. Still kind of am.
Dexter said on February 11, 2015 at 5:49 pm
Kirk: The replacement for Brian Williams, Lester Holt:
Deborah said on February 11, 2015 at 5:57 pm
Linda Ronstadt was definitely a good looking woman, and that voice was even better than her looks.
Jolene, that Letterman link about Williams was pretty funny. I don’t know MichaelG if a agree that what Williams did was the same as stolen valor, he didn’t say that he did anything heroic that I’ve heard. I just always thought of him more as an entertainer than a journalist. Not that I ever watched his news program much, if ever really. It’s funny to me how some of these things catch on and people talk about them a lot.
I will be sorry when Jon Stewart is gone, I see more clips online than I do actual shows but he is right on in most of them.
LAMary said on February 11, 2015 at 7:02 pm
Saw a suggestion in facebook that Jon Stewart replace Brian Williams. Like, the coincidence of Jon retiring the same day Brian got suspended was somehow planned. I have my doubts.
Sue said on February 11, 2015 at 9:54 pm
I could never get into Joni Mitchell. I’ve never gotten past that fakey laugh at the end of Big Yellow taxi; boy does that grate for some reason.
Linda Ronstadt, on the other hand, is perfect and can do no wrong.
Deborah said on February 11, 2015 at 10:20 pm
Sue, I actually came to Joni later in my life, now I’m a big fan. I knew of her music earlier but I didn’t really know about her until much later.
MichaelG said on February 12, 2015 at 12:42 am
Deborah, I think I indicated earlier that my feelings about Brian Williams and his situation are very personal and I respect that yours may vary.
Like everyone here, I’ll miss Jon Stewart a lot.