Truth Is Just Perception

NBC’s Failed Ethics… And Communications

I had explained on Superception, when Brian Williams’s scandal broke, why I thought he should be ousted.

NBC’s anchorman wasn’t able to accurately report his own life story. How can he be trusted to report the news and hold newsmakers accountable to truth?

That’s why I presented the choice NBC had to make in the following way:

Either they consider that an anchor is a journalist and they should demote Brian Williams or they posit that an anchor is an entertainer who has no duty to the truth and he can keep his job. But this job wouldn’t belong to the Fourth Estate. It would be no different than hosting ‘The View.’”

NBC has chosen a middle way between these two options: Brian Williams will no longer anchor “NBC Nightly News” but he will be an “anchor of breaking news and special reports” on MSNBC. It is a demotion both audience-wise (MSNBC has 10 percent the audience of “NBC Nightly News”) and, to a lesser extent, salary-wise (from $15 to less than $10 million).

Brian Williams was interviewed by his NBC colleague Matt Lauer (see the video above). The obvious objective was for him to show contrition. But his interview was at best a moment of attrition. He was unable to utter the world “lie” and explained his autobiographical creativity in an evasive way. It was a missed opportunity for him to regain the trust of a majority of the public.

Ultimately, NBC’s decision has much more to do with talent management than journalistic ethics. What it says, in this regard, is that Brian Williams is no longer trustworthy enough to report the news on NBC but that he is sufficiently credible to do so on MSNBC.

This is a terrible blow to MSNBC’s reputation.

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