By Carmen Glover
On Saturday, February 7, NBC Nightly News Anchor Brian Williams, who has unleashed an epic furor due to his repeated lies while on air, announced that he would be taking a temporary leave of absence and that Lester Holt will fill in for him in the interim. NBC News will do itself a disservice if it allows Williams back into the anchor seat because Williams willfully disgraced and ignored the bedrock of journalism: to cover and tell the truth.
It has been evident now for years that the evening network anchor chairs are reserved for white males: David Muir on ABC, Scott Pelley on CBS and Williams on NBC. Diane Sawyer vacated her seat on ABC last year and Katie Couric finally left her seat at CBS after enduring vicious criticism and low ratings. Long ignored in the narrative has been the total blackout in the evening news anchor chair unless it is a cherished holiday when most folks choose to be with their families and so black anchors occupy the seats by default.
Holt, who has been a stellar anchor/reporter for years at NBC should not be used as a mere clean up man to mop up Williams’ mess. For one thing, Williams should not be the one to take a leave of absence. Rather, NBC officials should have the gumption to fire him immediately or place him on indefinite leave for lying to the public and breaking the most sacred oath of journalism. When Jayson Blair was found to have fabricated sources and plagiarized articles at the New York Times he was fired. And rightly so.
I remember walking into one my advanced Spanish/journalism classed at Lehman College years ago to see Patricio Lerzundi, a native of Chile, who had worked at the Spanish-language newspaper El Diario La Presa (required reading for the class). Gazing around the classroom Lerzundi asked: “What’s the first rule of journalism/” We looked at him in bewilderment. He then turned to the chalkboard and wrote: “If your mother says I love you, check it out.” He then explained the importance of verifying information that will have our bylines. That stuck with me.
For Williams, who earns a cool $10 million per year, he never learned that basic lesson and, to add insult to injury, fabricated his own facts and then used his prominence to retell his lies over and over, secure in the knowledge that his network will protect him. NBC needs to cut him loose and try to regain some semblance of credibility, especially after its disgraceful handling of the Ann Curry situation.
Whether NBC makes the right decision is less important to me personally than it is journalistically because I do not watch NBC though I watch its cable counterpart, MSNBC, at times because it has greater diversity among the anchors. Journalistically, I am disgusted with them trotting out Holt to parade as the temporary face of the network when his work has proven that he is more than capable of being the true face of the network and the rightful heir to NBC Nightly News–OnPointPress.net.