Brian Williams had a rough time on “NBC Nightly News” last night when a fire alarm in the studio went off just seconds into his broadcast — and continued through most of the next half-hour. Williams, who can ad-lib his way through anything, explained to viewers what was happening as he continued to anchor the newscast despite the alarm’s piercing tone. I don’t know how many other broadcasters could have pulled that off without losing it.
Watching the clip below, I wondered two things. First, how many viewers tuned out to avoid the sickening sounds and how many stuck with Williams, if only to make sure he was okay (or the sickos who hoped it was a real fire so they could watch him burn up on live TV)?
Secondly, just moments after the alarm starts sounding, Williams announced that everything was okay and everyone was safe. How did he know that for a fact? Yes, it turned out to be a false alarm, the kind that happens in businesses all over America on occasion, but shouldn’t a serious news anchor take a couple of minutes to investigate before coming to that conclusion? Obviously, Williams couldn’t leave the studio to look around, but there are plenty of people behind the scenes and in the Nightly News control room who could have at least checked to make sure a piece of 30 Rock wasn’t going up in flames. I’m just saying.
I was also surprised that such a noisy alarm is allowed to exist in that studio in the first place. At all of the radio stations I’ve worked at (including at NBC in the mid-1980s), any such notification was always muted. Of course, that did lead to a problem that I wrote about in this column earlier this year.
Here’s a montage of Williams dealing with the sonic intrusion, as seen on “Morning Joe” today…