The story of Brian Williams’ suspension, and the news anchor’s tall tales that precipitated the action, were juicy journalism gossip. Rarely does such a public figure, whose job—at least in the minds of most people—is to be straightforward and truthful, get caught delivering what we’ll charitably call “anecdotal largesse.” It makes for an easy and quick headline (“This Just In: Brian Williams Not Called ‘Brain Williams’ For A Reason”), as well as an easily digestible story. But according to a new essay, Williams is only the tip of a much bigger mess at NBC, one that has been literally years in the making.
The March 9 issue of New York Magazine features a cover story delving into the behind-the-scenes drama that has slowly overtaken the NBC news division. Williams, it turns out, is merely the public face of an embarrassing history of mismanagement and corporate jockeying that has more to do with outsized egos than who was on what helicopter. There’s plenty of blame to go around: Matt Lauer, for one, comes out looking like an even bigger ass than he already did. (Lauer, complaining about a proposed plan to add three female producers to The Today Show: “This is like Lilith Fair.”) But plenty of execs come in for criticism, as well. NBC, it seems, is not so good at running a news division. The whole story is catnip for people interested in seeing how the televised news sausage gets made—or, in this case, bungled.