“We’ve been told to do the broadcast we’d like to watch, the broadcast we’ve always wanted to work on. There’s no benchmark, there’s no numbers, there’s no ratings. We’re living in our hour.” _Brian Williams: NBC News / Rock Center
NBC News / Rock Center with Brian Williams
By: Daedrian McNaughton | Premier Guide Media
Rock Center with Brian Williams is a weekly television news magazine broadcast on NBC and hosted by NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams. We caught up with Brian to talk about this new project.
Are you excited about this new project?
Brian Williams: I’m in the terrific position of working with all these wonderful people. To have Steve’s leadership and believe me he’s cleared the decks for whatever we have needed. I call myself, a day of air dog. And I have dealt with a daily deadline all my life in this business. So this is a new discipline and concentration for me. I mentioned in a few other pieces the Comcast guys who came into this company and this was the first order of business and it was enormously flattering and just reassuring about their intention. I’ve used the expression before that you look around this news division suddenly and it’s Cooperstown. And in a gender-neutral sense that’s really what we put together here.
Are you at all worried about ratings?
Brian Williams: Can’t say this often enough, no one has mentioned any kind of bracket for success or standards for that. All we’ve been told is to go do the broadcast we’d like to watch, the broadcast we’ve always wanted to work on. There’s no benchmark, there’s no numbers, there’s no ratings it’s just we’re living in our hour.
With an all-star line-up with Ted Koppel, Meredith Vieira, Matt Lauer and Ann Curry, are there any other reporters you have in mind?
Brian Williams: I’m not done. And we’re not done. There are still some people on the whiteboard in my head that are out there and who I think could really, really turn some heads.
What is this show to you?
Brian Williams: I’m going to have the role on this thing that I think you can envision and imagine and foresee. This is going to be about the stories we air and the people telling them. In some cases that’ll be me but in most cases it’s going to be this correspondent corp. And obviously these are friends and coworkers of mine and at the conclusion of the story they tell we’re going to probably sit around and talk about it. And there will be questions that will kind of pop into all of our heads as we watch these pieces. It’s got my name in it and all that and they’ve gone ahead and built this beautiful place. And it’s been very exciting around here. We’re hiring people to put journalism on television. And you don’t get to start something like this more than once or twice in your lifetime. And I think Ted was drawn to that.
Describe your new studio.
Brian Williams: We’re all going to be in one studio. This is one of the great studio sound stages in this building, Studio 3B, a previous home of a number of our broadcasts including Nightly News and Today over the years. So we decided to just start fresh with my day job and my night job. And it is a beautiful working television studio. One end will be Rock Center; the other end is Nightly News.
Anything on Dan Rather?
Brian Williams: I think Dan is under contract to HDNet.
Ted Koppel is a part of this line-up as well. Are you thrilled to have him on your team?
Brian Williams: We actually realized the day we gathered to have a little fun and shoot some promos the last time I had seen Ted in the flesh – I had found a way to get into what was then still Saddam Hussein International Airport in Baghdad, probably invasion plus three days. I slept on the floor of the Baghdad version of the learn to fly executive aviation terminal under a poster of Saddam Hussein on a cement floor. There were firefights going around all over the airport, planes were on fire. But when you got to get some rack time you’ve got to get some rack time. And I woke up hearing the distinctive voice, Williams, standing over me in his battle gear. Very surprised having embedded with the third ID to find that we had entered quote, their airport. So that was the last time I saw Ted before the elevator promo. Boy, I’d rather have him with us than against us. What a warrior, what a competitor, what a journalist. And that’s among the most thrilling developments in the development of this broadcast.
A lot of television programs are not able to make it due of poor ratings if they are not covering celebrities or high profile cases. How do you intend to bridge the gap and maintain a successful news program?
Brian Williams: We have a different charge. That’s never been part of our charge; it’s not why we were commissioned. Our charge was to put together the best broadcast of its type we could, get on the air and stay there. And we’re going to do that, watch; we’re going to do interesting stories that are supremely unrelated to what you just mentioned. Ten o’clock Eastern Time the night the situation in Cairo went to hell Richard Engel and I are on a hotel balcony trying to stay back from the railing as to not get hit by ricochets while this gun battle went on below us. We were on MSNBC all night. Boy, it would have been great to additionally have a broadcast network platform at 10 o’clock Eastern Time because that’s what we were doing. And for those watching it made for some incredible television I think.
Any take on the Halloween launch, was it a calculated decision to launch then?
Brian Williams: We’re aware that we’re launching on Halloween. And as I said on the Gayle King show we are actually counting on that kind of post-candy euphoria because those of us who are parents know that you send the kids to bed and then go through the bag. So we’re kind of counting on people who need a good hour-long sit down to join us that night.
You are quite a funny man on 30 Rock….
Brian Williams: While that doesn’t speak to towering credibility in a primetime evening news magazine those are what I call the extracurriculars that kind of make life more fun so thank you.
Rock Center with Brian Williams airs Wednesday 9pm/8c on NBC