“A few years ago, [‘NBC Nightly News’ anchor Brian] Williams told NBCUniversal CEO Stephen Burke he wanted to take over the ‘Tonight Show’ from Jay Leno. Burke dismissed the idea and instead offered Williams a weekly prime-time program called ‘Rock Center.’ Williams hoped it might develop into a variety show. But ‘Rock Center’ ended up more like a softer ’60 Minutes,’ and it was canceled after two middling seasons. Undeterred, Williams pitched CBS CEO Les Moonves about succeeding David Letterman, according to a high-level source, but Moonves wasn’t interested. (CBS declined to comment.)”
So writes Gabriel Sherman in a 5,000-plus-word piece about NBC News in New York magazine. It’s a must-read. Some other tidbits:
● “Last summer, around the time Chuck Todd took over as moderator of ‘Meet the Press,’ several staffers recalled that Williams told him: ‘At least your ghost [Tim Russert] is dead. Mine [Tom Brokaw] is still walking the building.’”
● Before all the recent controversy broke, to keep Williams happy at NBC, Deborah Turness, president of NBC News, gave Williams the mahogany writing table that once belonged to legendary CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow.
● ”Over the past year, all of the NBC News marquee franchises — ‘Today,’ ‘Meet the Press,’ ‘Nightly News’ — have been badly damaged by bungled talent decisions and control-room shake-ups. Taken together, the upheavals portray a news division that has allowed talent to take over. That was the theme that echoed through interviews with dozens of current and former NBC News journalists, executives, agents, and rival-network officials: ‘There’s no adult supervision,’ one senior NBC executive tells me. ‘If you don’t manage, it turns into a bad version of Ron Burgundy,’ says another.”
● ”Despite his obvious shortcomings, Turness dug in and tried to save [‘Meet the Press’ host David] Gregory. In January, she convened a meeting in Washington with Gregory and his producers and proposed a flurry of ideas to shake up the show — booking politically active celebrities like Angelina Jolie and taping in front of a live studio audience. And music: At the end of a Nelson Mandela segment the previous month, why couldn’t they have brought in a band to play the Specials reggae song ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ during the closing credits? Gregory found her suggestions outlandish.”
You get the idea. It’s a juicy, can’t-stop-reading article. You can find the complete article if you click here.