The current kerfuffle over Brian Williams’ alleged conflation of his exploits while anchoring the NBC Nightly News displays a misunderstanding of what a network anchor does. He or she is almost never a journalist in any real sense. He is a news reader.
Anchors are selected because they look and sound authoritative and seem personable enough to attract viewers.
Having worked in network television news, I know that the vast majority of the work leading up to a newscast by a team of seasoned professionals who craft the words and choose the images. The anchor’s input is minimal.
Williams does not have a journalism degree and has never worked in any news medium except television. And “covering a story” for television is a team effort.
Brian Williams did not ascend to the pinnacle at NBC News because of long years in the trenches building his credentials. He was picked because he is a smart guy who worked his way through the system to become the face of the brand.
Whatever the outcome of the Williams saga, his credibility is clearly not at stake. He never had any in the first place. His contribution to bringing the news to his viewing public consisted of being on camera for the lion’s share of the 22 minutes a 30-minute newscast actually allots to content.
Watching a network newscast is more a habit than anything else. Competing news sources can be faster and better than network shows, which have devolved into 10 minutes of news followed by “happy talk” stories about people who save puppies.
Except for his immediate family and friends, it doesn’t matter much whether Brian returns. Plenty more aspirants wait in the wings to sit in his anchor chair. And, they’ll all call themselves “journalists” too.