Brian Williams should have been a playwright, not a reporter.

Oh, Brian. You’re so dramatic.

You were shot down. You got dysentery. You saved puppies. (I mean, puppies, Brian? You brought sweet, innocent little puppies into your stories?)

Ok, true or not, let’s face it, Brian can tell a story. He just seemed to forget that a news story isn’t something you tell around a campfire, or whisper to your kids to get them to sleep at night.

News stories, like all press, have to be true.

As a Producer, you’re gonna want press. And lots of it. As Super Power press agent Rick Miramontez said in my very first podcast, press is free advertising, yet can reach further and faster than any New York Times ad or Times Square billboard. (My “Virgins Get In Free” promotion for My First Time cost me zero dollars, and went global.)

And as you come up with your own unique ways to get press for your shows, you’ll be tempted to twist the truth into something more dramatic than it is. You’ll want to “Williams” it. (Yep, that’s right, I made his name a verb . . . it means “b.s.”)

But don’t.

Why? Well, first, you’ll be found out. You can’t get away with anything today, so don’t even try.

Second, and most importantly, once you Williams (See how I did that there?), your credibility is shot. The public won’t believe you, and the press definitely won’t.  And if you think all press is good press, wait until you’ve been outed as a Williams Artist.

Just remember, when you start brainstorming all the ways you can get your project in the papers . . . you want your show to be the story, not the subject of one.

It’s too bad.  I like Brian. I was even lucky enough to get on his show when they did a story on the Tweet Seats at Godspell.

And don’t worry. He didn’t make that one up.


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  • Nancy says:

    Ken, I normally enjoy your posts but this was gratuitously nasty.

  • David Merrick Jr says:

    Yeah, this is kicking someone when they’re down and not really adding anything.

    I like Williams, so I’m already giving him a a pass…

  • Bob says:

    A journalist is selling honesty and accuracy. Brian Williams was selling shoddy goods. And it wasn’t only about Iraq. Apparently, it was the Katrina story; it was about being an original cast member of SNL (oh, was Jerry Seinfeld joking about that?). And perhaps a lot more. See:

    As you point out Ken, it isn’t just the fictional stories he told. Williams was foolish (a lot stronger word could be used) enough to think he wouldn’t be caught. That’s the personal side of this story. I expect a lot more will also be written about the corporate culture and the executives at NBC who allowed this situation to continue for years and, perhaps, the culture that prevented those lower on the corporate ladder from saying that the Emperor had no clothes (or did they say that and were ignored?).

  • Rich Mc says:

    Ken, your points tonight were right on the mark. Williams betrayed the trust of his viewers by lying repeatedly about specifics involving him personally that never took place. A network straight-news anchor simply cannot do this and maintain credibility, as you point out. The Truth in delivering & receiving factual news is of paramount importance, regardless of political persuasions. While I feel sorry for Williams personally, NBC was absolutely correct in suspending him and preserving its brand.

  • Stephen Buckle says:

    It’s an old adage that ‘money and power corrupts’ and certainly fuels self-delusion. If you can bare the pain, take a look at a Nation officially lying to itself Journalist Matthew Lee attempts day-after-day to dig (with others) for truth, an unenviable and thankless task.

  • To be accurate here, the first stories were news stories, the type told around the campfire. Tribal members bringing “news” of happenings around them back to the campfire, or cave, or polis. Jump to recent day and…not so long ago, newscasters and broadcasters were embellishing at will, but now technology can double and triple check. But not so fast—How about all those WMD’s that were reported to be in Iraq. (Oh, yeah, I know, blame the Executive: false info!) Except: the French never bought that bill of goods, did they? And let’s not even open the door to Fox News.

    Brian Williams? He’s today’s punching bag. It’s amazing that everyone pretends surprise. And how quickly the hypocritical bullies skulk from their closets clamoring for a shot at Mr Williams. At least his BS didn’t cost thousands and thousands of lives. As Fox News does. As all those “reporters” who, by their silent assent with Washington, do daily.

    • Rich Mc says:

      Frankly, the first paragraph of your post consists of indecipherable claptrap. Second paragraph: BS is BS, and does not need to be made ‘relative’ to anything other than the unadulterated Truth.

  • I actually liked this article. Telling the truth is important, no matter how uncomfortable it is. We all want to be seen as successful, respected and admired in some way for what we do. It is tempting to “beef things up” to make yourself look better. Very tempting. But the wrong thing to do. A friend at the Off Broadway Alliance recently told me: “Never be ashamed about where you are in the process”, referring to the play I am working on. I couldn’t agree more. In the long run, truth matters more.

  • Judy Sizemore says:

    I think many of your readers are missing your point, Ken. It’s not about Brian. It’s about integrity, in business and in life.

  • janis says:

    Good article.

    How often have we heard similar stories about journalists, sports heroes, politicians and others who seem to believe their celebrity gives them a pass on integrity.

    Our Founding Fathers applied the term “Fourth Estate” to the ‘press’ and gave it special privileges. In return, they expected an high degree of integrity. Professional Journalists were entrusted with delivering unbiased facts to a vulnerable citizenry and to resort to lying and distorting the truth is not only a betrayal of journalistic responsibility, it is a stain on the profession of journalism and Americans are understandably disappointed and even disgusted.

    Mr. Williams abrogated his responsibility as a journalist and in doing so, especially when we are at war, he betrayed not just his audience and his profession, but his country.

    Unfortunately he may be getting a pass from his fellow newsmen, and at some point we may be expected to endure another insincere celebrity apology.

  • Stephen Buckle says:

    Ken’s article is not nasty, nor is he knocking someone when down. It is important to ‘out’ self-delusion, attack the corruption of ethics, and demand honesty – the very foundations of a cilvilised society. Those that place themselves on those pillars must expect to be ridiculed when they abuse their platform.

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