Brian Williams passing over a network anchor

Monica Schipper/Getty Images Seven years after being relieved of his duties as anchor of the NBC Nightly News , Brian Williams was re...


Brian Williams leaves NBC

Monica Schipper/Getty Images

Seven years after being relieved of his duties as anchor of the NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams was reportedly offered another opportunity to host an evening newscast, this time for CBS. But he apparently isn’t interested. And given today’s news media ecosystem, in which hyper-partisan “analysis” has exponentially more influence than traditional journalism… who can blame it?

According to a CNN report Olivier DarcyWilliams has been approached twice for the position currently held by Norah O’Donnell. Darcy writing:

According to sources I spoke with, CBS News President and Co-Head Neeraj Khemlani recently attempted to recruit Williams for the network’s flagship evening news program. Two of the sources I spoke with said Khemlani, who took office less than a year ago and worked to poach talent, tried at least twice. But it didn’t help.

Williams, people I spoke to said, is simply uninterested in the evening news job – which speaks volumes not only about Williams’ turn of fortune, but also about the waning appeal to anchor an evening news program, once envisioned to be one of journalism’s most prestigious jobs.

CBS News’ current stance aside — and any internal drama possibly at play — the idea that anyone would turn down a news anchor on the network would be laughable not too long ago.

But it’s clear that Brian Williams doesn’t want to become the next Jeff Glor. Oh, you don’t know that name? He was the Once CBS Evening News host who was replaced by O’Donnell. He now continues to live in relative anonymity despite an impressive career, journalistic good faith and such a prestigious position.

And that is precisely the problem: the direct reporting of the Big Three nightly news programs wields only a fraction of the influence boasted by the partisan opinion pumped by the Big Three cable news networks – including including MSNBC, which Williams just left.

Yes, the network’s evening news anchors always draw far more viewers than Tucker-Carlson Where Rachel Maddow. But if an elected official wants to make “news,” speak directly to a like-minded constituency, or get noticed by the press, their first choice is cable, not network news.

For older Mediaite readers, the idea that the president of the network’s news anchor is a seat less valuable than a cable news hosting chair may seem absurd. I remember a time when many American households identified themselves with the network news program they were watching. (For the record, I grew up in a Walter Cronkite house, but we moved to a Pierre Jennings home after retirement.)

Cronkite is still considered the gold standard for broadcast journalism, and his “analysis” of the Vietnam War probably changed the hearts and minds of many Americans as much as any protest march or concert. But that was a different era in news reporting, when there was only half an hour of television news, instead of a constant stream of digital news and cable news analysis 24 24 hours.

When huge news was happening in the 70s and 80s, people tuned into network news. I vividly remember watching ABC Frank Reynolds live report in wall to wall coverage of the attempted assassination of the president Ronald Reagan.

Consider what’s happening right now when massive news happens today, whether it’s a school shooting, an impeachment trial, or even perhaps an international war.

On stories like these, Americans don’t turn to David Muir the way they did Cronkite, or Jennings, or Tom Brokawa. Now it’s cable stars like Fox News Bret Bayer or CNN Wolf Blitzer which are more likely to capture a larger share of the most avid viewers.

Brian Williams is a very entertaining host whose turn hosts the 11th hour on MSNBC was smart, funny and informative. It was an opinion show, like almost every other prime-time show on cable (although some shows push the boundaries of opinion and truth more than others).

Think of the last time a network news show created content that rocked the nation. It was likely by Lester Holt interview with former president donald trump who revealed why he fired the FBI director James Comey. That was over four years ago. Network news is in a pretty big slump.

It could be that Williams doesn’t want to return to this world because he knows he can be much more influential elsewhere. And that says more about today’s political infotainment ecosystem than almost anything else.

This is an opinion piece. The opinions expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author.



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