by Lisa de Moraes

Brian Williams has enough NBC-generated troubles these days, as he struggles to scrape together a cable-sized crowd of 3 million-ish viewers to his new primetime newsmag, which was conceived to help the ratings-starved network fill one of its many primetime holes.

On Tuesday Williams had to compete with a running fire alarm to even be heard during his “Nightly News” broadcast.

A NBC News rep told The Associated Press it was just a drill and that technicians couldn’t immediately turn off loudspeakers on Williams’ new studio — as if that somehow made it seem better, not worse.

Alarms went off multiple times more than once as Williams topped the newscast with his story about American Airlines having filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Flashing his famous crooked grin, Williams told viewers, “you’ll forgive us; we have a fire alarm announcement going on here at the studio.”

As the alarm continued to blare and Williams attempted to throw to NBC News Washington correspondent Tom Costello, for more on the airlines’ problems, Williams noted, “We should advise our viewers that there’s no danger to us….we’d love to make this stop”

Williams never missed a beat and never conceded defeat as he and the alarm continued to do battle during a report on the sentencing of Dr. Conrad Murray for his role in the death of pop star Michael Jackson. And the alarm system tried, in vain, to un-nerve Williams as he and Andrea Mitchell talked politics.

“Thanks for bearing with us here and our difficult fire alarm…we continue to be under no danger,” Williams quipped at one point.

Williams redid the broadcast for non-Eastern time zones, once the alarm had been vanquished.

Taking a different approach, back in 2002, was Connie Chung, when she was in her first week as anchor of a new CNN show – also in a new studio.

Note to news operations building new studios: Really?

Anyway, Chung was deep into a discussion with “The Women of Enron” -- the latest group of in-the-news women who had decided it would be a good career move to do a spread for Playboy – when the fire alarm returned for a second time.

Chung asked one of the Enronettes, a big-eyed blonde named Christine Nielsen, if she knew how she’d got to be on the cover.

Nielsen: I have no idea. I really don’t. I was just thankful --


Chung: Uh-oh, there it goes again. Let’s listen to it.

Unidentified Disembodied Male Voice: We’ve received an alarm. The alarm –

Chung: There you go, so we’re fine.

Unidentified Disembodied Male Voice: . . . that we may have caused. Everything is okay.

Nielsen: I promise I didn’t pull it!