NBC suspended “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams for six months – despite Williams saying earlier that he’d be off the air for a few days. But should NBC have fired him?  That’s the question being debated nationwide and within the communications community where, among other things, crisis communications is a specialty offered by a number of firms.

Today’s New York Daily News had the following report on the on-going situation: “NBC brass took a remarkable gamble on his viewers’ capacity for trust and forgiveness. They hope that by next summer Williams can return to the air.

“But they also put the reputation of NBC News in danger because someone at Williams’ level needs to be held to a higher standard.

“News anchors, especially one at his level are not supposed to tell half truths or embellish the facts like a politician.”

“By his actions, Brian has jeopardized the trust millions of Americans place in NBC News,” NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke said. “His actions are inexcusable and this suspension is severe and appropriate.”

We are not sure who crafted Burke’s comment, but if they were using a crisis communications firm, they may have received bad advice. if Brian Williams “actions are inexcusable”, then how can they keep him on their staff, even if he’s off the air?

Len Biegel, an international crisis communications expert and author of “Where’s My Umbrella: A Crash Course in Crisis Management”, said that “despite the shrinking audience for network news, Americans turn to the networks for authoritative news coverage. Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley and others set a high bar of trust. Williams has fallen far below that bar of trust and NBC News can not afford to lose the trust of its viewers. My advice?  Start the search for his successor.”
What do you think?  Should NBC keep him and ride out the storm, or fire him for “inexcusable” actions?

 

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