Brian Williams to return to full time journalism for election coverage?

Well, it’s not on NBC, but I suppose MSNBC is as close as he would need to come. The latest rumor (as reported at CNN Money) is that discredited news anchor Brian Williams may finally be coming fully out of the penalty box and getting a nightly show on the network doing election coverage right up through November. Given out how late at night the slot it, it’s probably not that much of a risk for them.

Brian Williams is expected to get his own time slot on MSNBC between Labor Day and Election Day, according to sources with knowledge of the plan.

According to the plan, Williams will anchor a special 11 p.m. program wrapping up the day’s campaign news, the sources said.

The plan is subject to change until the scheduling move is officially announced. But the Williams program has been under consideration for weeks inside MSNBC.

One of the sources said it will be a half hour show, with MSNBC’s usual replays of prime time programming picking up at 11:30 p.m.

So Williams won’t quite be in “late night” — competing directly with Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert — but he will wrap up the day for MSNBC.

Clearly the network still wants to get the maximum use out of Williams while he’s still under contract and it’s not as if his name recognition and previously near legendary status has been entirely forgotten. Yes, the bloom came off the rose quite a bit when his tall tales of war zone danger and excitement were show to be… fanciful in some cases, but he still has a name that looms large in the news business.

Back in June we talked about Phil Griffin’s decision to resurrect Williams’ career by making him “the face of MSNBC.” Even then I didn’t see it as a completely misguided idea. He hasn’t really been “the face” of the network since then as far as I can tell, but he’s certainly done plenty of primary coverage and election night specials and the world hasn’t collapsed into anarchy yet.

That conversation was a continuation of one of my earlier opinion pieces on the nature and extent of the sins committed by the former nightly news anchor. (Forgiving Brian Williams) With the better part of a year to let the idea marinate, I find that my position hasn’t changed much. No, we shouldn’t dismiss what Williams did entirely as water under the bridge, but it’s also relevant to keep his transgressions in context. As I’ve mentioned before, none of his tall tales found their way to the anchor desk at NBC. These were all personal anecdotes he related when he was the interview subject on late night shows. What can I say? The man loves to talk and one of his favorite subjects is Brian Williams.

Did he really do all that much damage? Yes, his credibility took a totally justified hit, but he wasn’t misleading the public in his coverage of the news of the day. And by now he’s spent so much time behind the woodshed at the tail end of his career that I’d imagine he’ll be particularly careful not to go astray.

It’s the eleven o’clock shift on MSNBC, long after most folks have tuned out from opinion journalism television. I honestly can’t see a problem with giving him another shot. Besides, I believe he’s still in an iron clad, pay or play contract, so the network might as well get some work out of him.