Z on TV: NBC should have stripped managing editor title from Brian Williams

The six-month suspension of Brian Williams would have been fine with me if the network would have stripped him of his title as managing editor of its evening newscast as well.

NBC's six-month suspension of Brian Williams would have been fine with me if the network would have stripped him of his title as managing editor of its evening newscast as well.

That was my immediate thought Tuesday night when the decision was announced, and I wrote about it here.


After sleeping on it, I'm even more convinced that if the words of NBC News President Deborah Turness and NBCUniversal Chairman Steve Burke were to have meant anything, Williams should not be returning to a position of leadership in the newsroom of the "NBC Evening News."

With his lies, Williams has betrayed the journalistic integrity demanded of someone who leads a newsroom. Removing him as managing editor would have let Williams have a career, but would also say to viewers NBC News takes truth telling seriously.

Stripping Williams of the managing editor's title permanently and bringing him back as an anchor only after the six-month suspension, would have sent a great statement about the value of credibility and honesty in covering the news.

"By his actions, Brian has jeopardized the trust millions of Americans place in NBC News," Burke said in a statement Tuesday, calling Williams' actions "inexcusable."

Turness was more specific in saying: "While on Nightly News on Friday, January 30, 2015, Brian misrepresented events which occurred while he was covering the Iraq War in 2003. It then became clear that on other occasions Brian had done the same while telling that story in other venues. This was wrong and completely inappropriate for someone in Brian's position."

She said the network was also concerned about "comments that occurred outside NBC News while Brian was talking about his experiences in the field."

And this is the guy that you are going to let run your newsroom? How does that action not make a lie out of NBC's high sounding words?

And why should anyone trust the credibility of a newscast put together by a liar?

On the other hand, if he's just reading the news, that's a different matter.

I'm OK with Brian Williams as the latest incarnation of a smiling suit sitting at an anchor desk and moving his lips to words written by journalists. I just don't think anyone who has been shown to be a liar should be deciding what gets covered and what doesn't get covered on the newscast with the largest audience on American television.

One other takeaway from this weeklong madness since Williams admitted he lied about his exploits in Iraq in 2003: I am dismayed by the way some of Williams' friends in the media tried to create a climate the past few days in which being critical of Williams and what he did was characterized as being part of an crazed and angry mob screaming for his head.

It was a dishonest and calculated strategy that worked, I have to admit, in that it muted or altogether closed off discussion from some as to what journalism should be and how far below those standards Williams and NBC had fallen.

This kind of dishonesty is one of the reasons so many see the media as a self-serving, smooth-talking gang of elites that exploits rather than serves the public — just like many Washington politicians.

And to some extent, they are right.