Brian Williams is an in-demand free agent after a six-year run at MSNBC in which he paid penance for his previous journalistic sins and piloted the successful 11th Hour. His sober signoff from the program in December, capping three decades at NBC News, suggests he believes speaking objective truth is imperative in a world where it's in short supply.
A second act will not be taking place at CBS News, though, as CNN's Oliver Darcy reports the longtime anchor turned down an offer to host the evening news.
According to the sources I spoke with, CBS News president and co-head Neeraj Khemlani recently tried to recruit Williams for the network's flagship evening news program. Two of the sources I spoke with said that Khemlani, who assumed his role less than a year ago and has been working to poach talent, tried at least twice. But it was to no avail.
Williams, the people I spoke to said, simply isn't interested in the evening news job -- which says a lot about not only Williams' turn-of-fortune, but also the diminishing allure of anchoring a nightly broadcast news program, once considered to be one of the most prestigious positions in journalism.
The program, currently helmed by Norah O'Donnell, has been stuck in third place for a few years. Williams was behind the desk for NBC Nightly News from 2004-2015 and would seem like an ideal candidate to inject new life and star power into the time slot.
But the lack of mutual interest mirrors what feels kind of obvious to the casual observer. The national nightly news is aging and fading at a remarkable rate. This used to be The Job. ABC News won the ratings war last year but still saw a double-digit drop in viewership. Barring some unforeseen swing of the pendulum, it's hard to imagine an increase in the space's cultural capital. The masses simply do not want down-the-middle, straightforward news as much as they want opinions. It would be great if this weren't the case and the country would be in a far better position, but reality is reality.
At MSNBC, Williams was afforded the opportunity to opine and contextualize. His program was never hyperbolic or hyper-partisan as he retained a lot of the sensibilities from his run on the flagship NBC. Finding another platform that allows him to do that would be mutually beneficial.