Tired of hearing about Brian Williams, the disgraced former anchor of NBC Nightly News? So are we. But the story demands a final peek.
It’s a pitiful saga replete with so many lessons:
- About what the public has a right to expect (but often doesn’t get) from the media. Honesty.
- About how journalists should (but sometimes don’t) behave. With integrity.
- About what punishment should be meted out to those who stray. Arguably much more severe than Williams received.
One lesson is worth special attention: An insincere “apology” wins you no points.
Williams lied. No one doubts that, except perhaps Williams who still can’t bring himself to say the “L” word. Five months after the scandal erupted and in his first public comments since NBC decided to let him remain in a diminished role, Williams this week couldn’t stop hedging.
Listen to his words: “I told that story correctly for years before I told it incorrectly…. I never meant to mislead…. It was clearly ego-driven, a desire to better my role…. It came from a bad place, a bad urge inside of me. It came from a sloppy choice of words.”
If his goal was to convince that he’s repentant and deserves a second chance, he fell far short. (The public may over time forget. But to his journalistic colleagues, he will remain forever toxic and undeserving of trust.)
He violated one of the most basic rules of Reputation Management. If you sinned and it’s already known or will be soon, then fess up. That plugs the dike.
If you don’t, people will keep digging — and the rest of the dirt will be unearthed, one ugly disclosure after another. All you accomplish is prolonging the pain.
Williams is right about one thing: He has a bad case of ego. One symptom is reluctance to make an admission of wrongdoing, a sincere expression of remorse, or a public mea culpa. The operative word is “sincere.”
Such penance would be a step too far, and too humbling.
“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”
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