In a thorough New York magazine piece published Sunday, Gabriel Sherman detailed how bad things had gotten at NBC before the Brian Williams saga got out of hand, and how deep the network's troubles are, even outside of Williams. Sherman appeared on HuffPost Live on Monday to talk about the piece and how Williams' suspension could change the structure of nightly news shows going forward.
"I think the fact that Brian Williams was allowed to amass so much power ... I think we need to ask ourselves this question: how did that discredited segment, where he tells this fantastical story about being blown out of the sky by an RPG in Iraq, how did that get on the air?," he told host Ricky Camilleri. "That script was written. The segment was packaged. It was put into the lineup. Brian Williams can't do that alone."
Before his six-month suspension, Williams was anchor and managing editor of "The NBC Nightly News," meaning he had full editorial control over the show's content. His predecessor, Tom Brokaw, and "CBS Evening News" legend Dan Rather held similar control of their own programs. Sherman thinks that system only enables tales like Williams'.
"You don't need more of a sign of somebody having unfettered power than that segment, because Brian Williams convinced all these people around him to go along with a story that did not pass the smell test," he said. "That exposes a bigger question. Going forward, NBC News should not allow the anchor to be both the anchor and the managing editor. It's fundamentally a conflict of interest. The anchor needs an editor to keep them in check."
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