So now NBC News has to figure out a way to get the rest of the world to stop talking about the crisis in trust at NBC News. Brian Williams has been put on un-paid suspension for 6 months, but that doesn’t solve all of NBC’s problems.
Ratings dipped last week on the Friday night when Brian Williams was still anchoring. This week, ratings are up, higher than ever, with Lester Holt as the substitute anchor. If this trend continues, NBC News is going to laugh all the way to the bank. With ratings higher, ad revenues can increase, and all with paying a much lower salary to the substitute host.
A lot of attention has been given to the savaging NBC has received on Twitter and social media. But here’s one question I haven’t seen adequately addressed. Does the audience of NBC Nightly News (or any network news broadcast) even know what Twitter is? That’s not a knock on Twitter or social media, it’s a reflection on the fact that the average age of NBC Nightly News viewers is, roughly, 112.
Other factors that may be in play: really old people don’t remember where the remote control is and don’t want to get up out of their seats to switch the channel form NBC to some other network. (I’m 52 and this occasionally applies to me)
I don’t feel that NBC News is any worse than any other TV news network, but it’s time to admit that in 2015, network news isn’t really “news” as much as it is a packaging and marketing delivery system for people who have never heard of a new fangled invention called the “internet.” So, I’m just not sure that all the hand-wringing over news integrity, trust, and reputation are as relevant as if a crisis like this had occurred 15, 20 or 30 years ago.
There is a part of me that feels, given NBC’s audience, if Brian Williams being bloodied up in social media is as irrelevant as if the editor of AARP were caught making disparaging remarks about teenagers. In other words, would any of the real audience know or care if other people elsewhere are offended?
So what will NBC do with Brian Williams in 6 months? If ratings are the same or higher than now, Williams will definitely not be returning to the anchor chair. Prediction, Williams will either be escorted out of the building permanently, given a late, late, late night talk show gig, or be assigned to light-hearted celebrity interviews on the Today Show. I’m not saddened by Williams departure, though I can think of at least 100 media figures who I think are more dishonest and unethical than Williams, and they all remain on the air. But let’s not feel sorry for Williams, he’s had a long and extremely lucrative career in journalism. and there are worse things in life than retiring at 55, in good health, and with tens of millions of dollars in the bank.
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