Friday, September 25, 2015

Road to resurrection runs through 30 Rock

While Pope Francis led a spiritual resurgence of faithful Catholics in Cuba, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and New York City last week, a different resurrection was taking place a few steps away from St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Brian Williams went back on TV Thursday to deliver news of the Pope's visit, working out of studios at 30 Rock. Except he's on MSNBC, the cable news channel that has fewer viewers than any other NBC-Comcast-Universal property.

By fimoculous from Seattle (Flickr), via Wikimedia Commons
Mr. Williams, you may recall, fell off the NBC News' anchor desk seven months ago, after sharing tall stories about his exploits in Iraq and New Orleans that proved inaccurate, to put in kindly. Williams -- affable, credible, and a good front man for NBC's news product -- had fibbed. He was suspended, and only through the graces of new leadership at NBC News, was given an opportunity to resurface at MSNBC, where he began his network career a few decades ago.

Major news competitors gave reserved approval to Williams' return. The New York Times framed his resurrection as part of a broader effort to revitalize struggling MSNBC.  Huffington Post and the New York Post also reported on Williams' comeback, but the Post dwelled on snarkisms about Williams from Twitter.

I believe the media should spend more time covering news stories, not airing random social media remarks from people with excess data plan minutes. News outlets large and small dwell too long on Tweets from casual netizens, instead of reporting facts from knowledgeable sources.

As for Williams: he's one more proof point that Americans love a second act. If he succeeds, his presence may shore up a cable news operation that's struggled to maintain a foothold. I like Lester Holt at the helm of the NBC Nightly News on the parent network. But Williams has a shot at rebranding himself and the sibling cable channel. 

But you'd hope NBC News has learned not to pin its hopes on one charismatic news anchor to lift an entire network.