Brian Williams Draws Mixed Viewer Response in Shooting Coverage

Brian Williams MSNBC Oregon Shooting Coverage
Courtesy of MSNBC

The tragic shootings in Oregon Thursday gave Brian Williams his biggest test yet since returning to the air on MSNBC last week, and his blanket coverage drew a decidedly mixed response from viewers.

Audiences appeared split on their feeling toward Williams’ return, with 54% of reactions expressing favorable emotions and 46% expressing overtly negative emotions, according to Canvs, which tracks sentiment regarding content on Twitter.

The shootings marked the second but far more sustained appearance on air for Williams than his first on Sept. 22, when the former “Nightly News” anchor presided over coverage of the Pope’s visit to the U.S. NBC News is hoping viewers embrace Williams in his new role, which is focused on stepping in during breaking news on MSNBC.

A slight majority of viewers were clearly heartened to see Williams in a familiar setting anchoring the news during a difficult time. “Thank God you are back on air to cover this horrible tragedy! You are a pro.. Bless you!” tweeted Marion Howarth.

But others were a little less forgiving of Williams considering the scandal he recently weathered regarding fabrications he made publicly that led to a six-month suspension. “Can’t believe Brian Williams just used the ‘in the fog of war’ phrase to apply to shooting. If I were Brian I wld never use that again,” another social-media critic scolded.

Canvs monitored 357 reactions out of 1,633 relevant tweets tracked between noon-7pm ET . Williams went on air at 2:20 p.m. and stayed on through the evening.

“MSNBC Live” saw 4% less reaction volume than the average MSNBC program, putting it roughly on par with what the network typically sees on social media during the daytime.

Canvs classified 21% of the tweets relevant to Williams as being “excited” or “happy.” The negative tweets were split between 36.3% who expressed “dislike” while 9.8% who characterized Williams’ appearance as “crazy.”