Editorial: The importance of the Brian Williams downfall
By THE BLUE & GRAY PRESS EDITORIAL BOARD
Brian Williams, the lead anchor of the NBC Nightly News and considered by some as the “face of American journalism,” is under fire, figuratively, for his claim that he came under fire, literally, while covering the Iraq War in early 2003.
The story started innocuously enough, with Williams reporting that a helicopter ahead of his own convoy was shot down by insurgent fire. From there, the story morphed, taking shape over almost 12 years and turning into a harrowing tale of how Williams’ own helicopter was brought down by enemy fire.
These inconsistencies in his reporting spurred many news sources to comb through Williams’ stories, finding other exaggerations involving the events of Hurricane Katrina, in which Williams later recounted seeing a body float by his hotel in the French Quarter, one of the few areas of New Orleans that did not suffer heavy flooding.
The puzzling part of the story comes from the fact that in his broadcasts Williams tends to stick solely to the facts, reporting the truth. It’s only later as he recounts his experiences and adventures that the fish becomes large and larger until it eventually takes over his seat at NBC.
That a journalist was caught in a web of lies is troubling but, unfortunately, not uncommon. The Stephen Glasses and Jayson Blair’s of the industry have prepared us for these circumstance. And yet few have fallen so fast and so far as Williams.
Williams was handed the NBC news desk from the much respected and distinguished Tom Brokaw, a detail that automatically instills a certain level of implied trust. Instead of fulfilling this trust, Williams has placed himself within the stories, seeking celebrity instead of credibility.
The situation is troubling not only to journalists, but to viewers as well. The entire field of journalism has shifted uncomfortably, now on edge and hyper aware of any possible mistakes, putting everyone under the microscope. And the American people have now found themselves in search of a “trusted name in news,” as that the former name has let them down.
At this time, as Americans are reassessing their trust and faith in news sources, journalists must be sure to hold themselves to the highest possible standards. With credibility at an all time low, journalism stands on a precipice, and Williams threatens to pull us over.