The recent Brian Williams debacle is the third major employee melt-down for NBC in the last 18 months. NBC’s talent trouble started with the 2013 Today Show debacle and the bullying of Ann Curry by her fellow Today Show producers and hosts. Curry left the show in tears amidst allegations of taunting and what she termed “professional torture.”
In 2014, NBC medical correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman’s ignored an ebola quarantine to go get take-out food, which brings us to Brian Williams recent 6 month suspension over his exaggerating news stories. It was uncovered that news anchor Brian Williams embellished his involvement in a news report from twelve years ago, where he claimed his helicopter took on gun and missile fire while he was reporting from Iraq. The media frenzy surrounding this revelation was a lot like piranhas feeding on fresh meat, no doubt influencing NBC’s decision to suspend Williams from the anchor desk.
It goes to show employee misconduct is not restricted by employee education, income, or job visibility. I was glad to hear NBC conducted an investigation into the Williams matter, before deciding to suspend him for six months.
My question for NBC is why did it take twelve years for the Williams story to surface, and then only because an issue was raised by military personnel who were present? What about the NBC camera crew and support personnel who were with Williams during the embellished helicopter ride twelve years ago? Is there a corporate culture at NBC that protects badly behaving talent that should be addressed here as well?
Spin doctors are trying to shift the focus off of troubled NBC, and onto Fox news journalist Bill O’Reilly, alleging he embellished news coverage over the Falkland war. Unlike Williams however, O’Reilly is holding fast to his journalistic integrity.
The take-aways: NBC, like any employer dealing with employee misconduct, needs to review its’ corporate culture to get at the heart of why well-educated, highly-paid talent are behaving badly. That is the only way NBC can truly retool their image and regain market share. I know I am going to be checking out David Muir over on ABC for my evening news, while NBC figures this all out. I might even tune in to Bill O’Reilly to see why he is viewed as such a threat.