Pope departs as a restrained, effective Brian Williams returns

Brian Williams' returned to MSNBC last week after being taken of the anchor chair at NBC.  (2007 AP file Photo/Matt Rourke)

Brian Williams’ returned to MSNBC last week after being taken of the anchor chair at NBC.
(2007 AP file Photo/Matt Rourke)

Brian Williams’ return to anchor action began last Tuesday with understatement— “And good day, I’m Brian Williams at MSNBC headquarters here in New York”—and was matched by similar restraint at dinnertime Sunday.

“For now and all of our team of contributing correspondents, thank you for being with us,” he said as Pope Francis’ trek to the U.S. neared its end in Philadelphia.

In between, his fans, friends and bosses might be cheered by a solid re-emergence, especially if one is given to Francis-like empathy and relishes second chances.

Judged by initially improved MSNBC ratings, and the usual norms of assessing TV performance, his reappearance worked. Read more


Popemania in full swing for media at White House stop

President Barack Obama and Pope Francis stand at attention during the playing of the national anthems during a state arrival ceremony for the pope, Wednesday on the South Lawn of the White House. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Barack Obama and Pope Francis stand at attention during the playing of the national anthems during a state arrival ceremony for the pope, Wednesday on the South Lawn of the White House. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

It was all-pope-all-the-time Wednesday morning as television media ignored virtually any other news to reverently cover Pope Francis’ address at the White House.

Wherever one turned, there he was, acknowledging the perils of climate change and deriding inequality in one of his longest English-language speeches ever: ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News Channel, even CNBC and Fox Business Network.

Of course, old reliable C-Span was there but without any intrusion from anchors, reporters or academic pundits.

There was as much emoting as cold analysis, even on Fox, where many viewers surely take issue with Francis’ unequivocal views on climate change, if not other matters. Read more


Is going to MSNBC a blessing in disguise for Brian Williams?

Brian Williams (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)

Brian Williams (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)

The challenge for Brian Williams and his bosses is clear: going from the butt of derision to a face of MSNBC.

“You don’t throw out the baby with the bath water because the water is soiled,” said an NBC anchor to me Thursday

Reports surfaced late Wednesday that he’d not return to his evening anchor post. On Thursday came a formal corporate announcement that he’ll do “breaking news” at the cable channel. Meanwhile, he taped an interview with colleague and “Today” co-host Matt Lauer, which will air Friday.

Ultimately, the decision was inevitable even if it suggests a distinction without a difference.

For his bosses, the evening anchor job at the broadcast network is too high profile, there’s too much advertising money on the table and it wasn’t worth the risk of viewer and internal derision. Read more


NBC and Brian Williams still have explaining to do

Brian Williams moderates a debate between presidential candidates in 2008 file photo.  (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Brian Williams moderates a debate between presidential candidates in 2008 file photo. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

I believe in second chances and redemption. But NBC’s decision to move Brian Williams to MSNBC isn’t enough of an endgame move for me.

NBC News has not released the findings of its investigation into inaccurate and embellished statements that Williams made on the news and on other non-news programs. Williams was interviewed by “Today”‘s Matt Lauer, and those segments will air Friday. In a statement sent to NBC employees, Williams is quoted as saying,

I’m sorry. I said things that weren’t true. I let down my NBC colleagues and our viewers, and I’m determined to earn back their trust. I will greatly miss working with the team on Nightly News, but I know the broadcast will be in excellent hands with Lester Holt as anchor.

Read more

C-Span teaming with the networks to cover presidential campaign

C-span's red bus

C-span’s red bus

C-SPAN is teaming with the major news networks to share personnel and other costs while covering even more events in real time along the campaign trail.

Ted Johnson, a political reporter for Variety, walked up the steps of the iconic bright red C-SPAN school bus parked on the floor of the national cable TV convention. He just wanted to say hi.

And why not? After all, if you’re a political journalist, the same just-the-facts network that’s long inspired “Saturday Night Live” skits is very much a key part of your reporting arsenal.

Now, financial necessity appears to be the mother of C-SPAN-bred invention, all probably to the enhanced benefit of reporters and politics junkies gearing up for the 2016 presidential campaign.

And it may be particularly true for the large number of reporters whose outlets can’t afford to have them on the road for appreciable, if even any, time due to budget cuts. Read more


‘The audience is going to demand it’: Why good visuals matter

Kainaz Amaria and Imaeyen Ibanga are the type of extroverted, vibrant people who can win over a room within minutes. But they find it frustrating when they and their visual colleagues aren’t included in the room at all, especially as editorial decisions are being made.

Amaria, NPR’s picture editor, and Ibanga, a multi-platform producer at NBC News, were both part of the ONA-Poynter Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media. Like their counterparts, they had never met before their week at Poynter, but had no shortage of topics to relate on.

Partway through the leadership week, the women sat together for a short conversation about why good visuals are so important for news coverage.

The transcript has been edited for length and clarity; a video of a portion of their conversation is at the bottom of the page. Read more


WaPo: Decision regarding Brian Williams’ fate at NBC News ‘likely to come soon’

The Washington Post

Newly-appointed NBC News chairman Andy Lack is likely to make a determination about Brian Williams’ future at the network soon, Paul Farhi writes for The Washington Post.

Lack’s hand may be forced by the NBC’s forthcoming “upfront,” a slew of meetings between network officials and advertisers aimed at securing ad buys. Farhi explains:

People on both sides of the negotiations, including some at NBC, say it is unlikely that Lack and NBC will go into the upfronts without resolving Williams’s status beforehand. Given the critical role anchors play in the success of a news broadcast, uncertainty over who will anchor “Nightly News” would hurt NBC’s negotiating position with advertisers.

And at the moment, the betting seems to be against Williams’s return.

Williams received a six-month, unpaid suspension from the “NBC Nightly News” anchor desk in February after he was discovered to have made false claims about a reporting trip in Iraq. Read more


The Hollywood Reporter: How much do morning news shows plug other TV products?

The Hollywood Reporter

Everyone knows that the three major networks’ morning news shows spend an awful lot of time cross-promoting the networks’ sports and entertainment projects, but The Hollywood Reporter decided to calculate exactly how much time. Reviewing the week of March 9-13, Hollywood Reporter staff timed each segment dedicated to “corporate synergy” and have published the results.

The king of self promotions, the Hollywood Reporter claimed, is ABC’s “Good Morning America,” with 36:30 minutes of corporate synergy out of a total of 15 hours of airtime, including commercials. Highlights include a segment on shoes from the movie Cinderella, which was rolled out by ABC’s parent company Disney, as well as a visit to the set from the stars of the latest season of the reality show “The Bachelor.”

CBS took second place, as “This Morning” clocked in 26:12 minutes of cross promotion, including six minutes for actress Patricia Arquette to plug her show “CSI: Cyber” and a segment on the boxing bout between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiano, which the CBS-owned Showtime network will air. Read more

1 Comment

Brian Williams reportedly lobbied to succeed David Letterman

Good morning! Here are 10 media stories.

  1. More tales of tumult from inside NBC News

    Gabriel Sherman's much-anticipated longread about the turmoil surrounding Brian Williams' suspension from the anchor chair dropped Sunday. Among the juiciest tidbits: Williams asked CBS CEO Les Moonves to be considered as a replacement for David Letterman upon the comedian's retirement from "Late Show," according to "a high-level source"; Four NBC and NBCUniversal officials visited Williams at his apartment to notify him he was being taken off the air; Richard Esposito, the investigative producer at NBC News conducting a review of Williams, "delivered a 45-minute presentation at [NBCUniversal CEO Steve] Burke’s apartment" that unearthed "more issues" with Williams' disputed claims; Williams can't talk to the press under the terms of his suspension and "can’t wait until he can speak" publicly about the situation, according to "a close friend." (New York) | "If Brian Williams proposed to CBS that he take over when Letterman retires, that alone is reason he should not return" (@jayrosen_nyu) | "Last weekend, workers at NBC's Rockefeller Center headquarters briefly wiped away promotional photos of Brian Williams." They went back up the next day.

Read more

Andy Lack leaves post at Broadcasting Board of Governors

Andy Lack, the former NBC executive rumored to be considering a return to the network, has stepped down from his position as CEO and director of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the agency announced Wednesday.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors announced today that CEO and Director Andrew Lack will be departing the agency. The agency will now begin work to attract an equally talented executive to help continue to transform our agency.

Lack did not specify a reason for his departure, but he will be in next week to explain his decision, a spokesperson for the Broadcasting Board of Governors told Poynter.

News of Lack’s departure tracks with reports that he’s angling for “a top job” at NBC, perhaps as chairman of NBC News Group, as Politico’s Dylan Byers reported Tuesday. Read more

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