In a Big Think interview, David Westin, who ran ABC News for 14 years, laid out the steps that NBC needs to take to keep Brian Williams at the anchor desk, and recover from Choppergate. First, the network needs to show that it trusts and values Williams. Then, it needs to show viewers that it takes the situation seriously and holds him accountable.
You have to reinforce that you still believe in him. That you still value him. That you value all of his years of service and the wonderful journalism he’s done through the years. Number one. And number two: No one is above the truth. This is the number one priority for any news organization, is to have their credibility and their trustworthiness and their relationship with their audience.
Westin admits that the seemingly contradictory goals aren’t going to be easy to meet, but he says he’s heard that “NBC News will find a way” to keep Williams in his job.
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Westin also says that the current scandal is due in part to a media environment where network anchors “become the story,” leading to outsize expectations. “As soon as the journalist becomes the story, you’re in trouble,” he says. “I don’t know when we decided that reporters have to be war heroes. Reporters don’t fight wars; they report on wars.”