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Rock Center with Brian Williams: When Bad Titles Happen to Good Anchors

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This morning, NBC announced the title for its long-awaited primetime newsmagazine: Rock Center with Brian Williams, which will debut later this season, marks a big entry into the nighttime news business, with the network throwing its primary anchor and some of its greatest resources into a—oh, stop. I can’t do this. Because all I can think about is that title. That horrible, horrible title.

For starters, I’ve worked at Time magazine, whose headquarters are in Rockefeller Center, for a dozen years now, and I have never once heard any person, ever, use the nickname “Rock Center” in casual conversation. (As opposed to “30 Rock,” which was actual shorthand in and outside NBC well before the sitcom.) For the sake of argument, I’m willing to assume that’s just me—there is, at least a café by that name in the complex of buildings, even if that is the only use of the term I can find in a cursory Google search. Still, I can’t get past the fact that, as Jaime Weinman already pointed out, “Rock Center with Brian Williams” sounds like the name of the newsmagazine Williams would host if he ever guested on The Flintstones.

I’m guessing that “Rock Center” is meant to be, in news as in the restaurant world, the casual-café version, signifying a hipper, more off-the-cuff version of NBC News, using its address for a down-in-the-street feel much as CBS tried with short-lived newsmagazine West 57th back in the day. But even the quote Williams gave for the press release suggests that he knows it’s a goofy name: “‘Hopefully our journalism will speak louder than any name,’ said Williams. ‘If it doesn’t, perhaps people will tune in to ‘Rock Center’ hoping to see Tina Fey.’”

It is the journalism that will matter, of course—NBC has been seriously staffing up, hiring Harry Smith and Kate Snow for the show as well—and titles can always change. In which case, “Rock Center” will be up for grabs again. May I suggest it be used for

* a chain of big-box mall guitar stores

* a slang term for a city’s most notorious crack-selling district

* a late-night ’80s-metal-nostalgia music-video show, hosted by Dee Snider

* a fictitious mineral-collectors’ store used by Hank as a cover story for a surveillance outing on a future episode of Breaking Bad

* your pseudonym, should you ever wish to check into a motel under a false name

Or [your better suggestion here]. But maybe it’s just me. Are you ready to rock the news with Brian Williams?

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