Career Suicide – Lying Like NBC’s Brian Williams

Career Suicide – Lying Like NBC's Brian Williams

Photo Credit: Pranati Raheja

Last February, we all saw the career of Brian Williams from NBC Nightly News unravel after he was exposed for lying and exaggerating in his news reporting. It became increasingly clear that he fabricated details in some of his news stories. He did this when covering stories in the Middle East, Hurricane Katrina, and roughly a dozen other stories.

Workplace Dishonesty = Job Loss

He was suspended for six months without pay, and Lester Holt temporarily took over the weekday anchor seat. Another casualty of the fallout was Patricia Fili-Krushel. She lost her role as the Chairman of NBCUniversal News Group. As many of us know far too well, takedowns often like company. So his walk of shame was not a solo journey.

This past Wednesday, NBC announced that Brian Williams will be returning to NBC, but not as the NBC Nightly News anchor. Starting in mid-August, he will be a breaking news and special reports anchor at the cable network MSNBC. Lester Holt will become the official weekday anchor of NBC Nightly News.

Williams has been humbled and is taking a large salary cut, according to two NBC executives with knowledge of the agreement. In December 2014, Williams signed a 5-year contract with NBC for at least $10 million a year. Under his new contract, he will be making “substantially” less.

An Opening for Diversity & Lester Holt

Advocates of reliability and truthfulness in news reporting are happy for Lester Holt. He is a solid anchor and reporter, and he has held strong television ratings. Most importantly, he is seen as credible, trustworthy, and honest. He has an unblemished record.

The added benefit with Holt is that this is a win for diversity. When Williams’ career suicide created an opportunity for someone else, it cracked open the door for diversity. Lester Holt is now the first black solo anchor permanently hosting the national weekday evening news at a major network. Max Robinson was the first black co-anchor of ABC News World News Tonight.

Importance of Protecting Your Reputation

Brian Williams is not the only person to lie and cannibalize his own career, and he will not be the last. However, what it reminds us is that the most important thing we need to protect in our careers is our integrity.

At the end of the day, all we have is our name, “brand,” and reputation. If we throw kerosene on it by lying to get ahead, we can end up just like Brian Williams.

Final Thought – You Won’t Be As Lucky As Williams

Williams is lucky he is getting a second chance. Many believe he does not even deserved that. He is dishonest and lost our trust. He let his ego cloud his judgment. How can we rely on him for honest reporting in the future? We need the highest levels of moral character and truthfulness in journalism. The responsibility of news agencies is to provide reliable and factually-accurate reporting about world events. This enables us to reach informed decisions about our communities, our country, and the world.

But let’s face it – most of us will not get the slightest break if we lied in the workplace and boardroom. Instead, they would tell us to pack up our stuff, go meet with HR, and watch security escort us out the door.

This is why The Azara Group counsels its clients – at all times – to be truthful. Being honest allows you to better manage your career and move towards success. If people cannot believe what comes out of your mouth, then you cannot expect great levels of career advancement.

So remember – protect your reputation and be honest!


The Azara Group (TAG) is a consulting firm that promotes the development of leaders in an increasingly competitive and diverse marketplace – providing strategy consulting services and leadership training services to advance professional and life success. TAG leverages expertise in career strategy, diversity, negotiation skills, and business acumen to provide strategic advice and consulting services to help people and organizations get what they want, achieve their goals, and advance their business and career objectives. TAG also helps companies better attract, retain, and promote diverse talent, and develop robust diversity platforms and strategies to create a more inclusive workplace.

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