By: Daniel Stillman
Journalists should have one job: to find and tell the truth. They lose their credibility when they lie or fabricate the stories they tell.
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams was suspended recently for a six month period without pay. Williams was suspended on the grounds that he falsified a recollection of his experience in Iraq in 2003, where he described being aboard a helicopter that was forced down by a grenade and small-gun fire. However, the original report said that it was another helicopter in the formation that was hit. Williams even told the dramatic, misleading story on the “Late Show with David Letterman.”
Williams apologized on air for his mistakes a few weeks ago. Not surprisingly, he is now facing significant scrutiny from media critics. This brings up an important question: if we can’t trust this generation’s Walter Cronkite, who can we trust?
According to a September 2012 Gallup report, 60 percent of Americans say they have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly. Are Americans naturally skeptical?
Journalists are there to serve the public for the greater good. They are merely messengers of society, and we expect them to be honest when reporting the news.
An anonymous NBC executive spoke about Williams’ lie, saying, “When Williams tells an anecdote…he has a tendency to enhance details for dramatic or entertaining effect. But we would always say, ‘That’s Brian.’” An anecdote is one thing, but a news report is another. In his career, it was unprofessional and one of the most unethical things a journalist can do.
Next time you are watching or reading the news, think twice before believing what’s being said. It is now our job to be truth-seekers and find the reality in the news that matters to us most.