What happens when a news anchor who we trust every night to deliver us the news … becomes part of the news, and not in a good way?
Brian Williams learned the hard way.
With his clean cut look, his unwavering tone and serious candor, Brian Williams has spent many evenings the last 11 years informing us about what’s going on in the world. It was 2004 when he succeeded Tom Brokaw as the lead anchor for NBC’s Nightly News, and since then, Williams has become the face of the news.
It’s been a tenuous evolution for news reporting the last decade. Because of social media and viral videos, even the slightest slip-up will undergo intense scrutiny. The average person, meanwhile, doesn’t even hear about breaking news from NBC, or CBS, or ABC, but from “trending” lists on Facebook and Twitter.
Networks have now adapted 24-hour-news reporting that transition from one anchor to another so fleetingly that we don’t remember who belongs to what channel and at what time. And adding to the scrutiny is Jon Stewart, who will unhesitatingly shred to pieces any statements made that deserve ridicule.
But one man who has remained a stable face in the industry through this period is Brian Williams. His matter-of-fact, no nonsense presentation hearkens back to famous newscasters of old, the Walter Cronkites, the Peter Jennings.
And now, it remains to be seen if Williams will ever regain his credibility.
The controversy surrounds his inconsistent recollection of his time reporting in Iraq in 2003, where he has on multiple occasions claimed a helicopter he was flying in was shot down during the Iraq War. Apparently that was not the truth.
On Facebook recently, the pilot of the helicopter that was shot down called Williams out on it, and it escalated from there. Williams admitted live on air that he was not in the chopper that was shot down, but in one that trailed it, and was never hit. Over time, he said, he accidentally conflated the two stories.
Williams has taken a leave from NBC amid the controversy, but said he intends to come back. NBC is investigating the situation.
Some people are calling on the network to fire him. Or for Williams to resign. This is a lie, they say, he can not come back from. His tales of fake valor are an insult to servicemen and women everywhere.
Call me naive, but I’m willing to give Williams the benefit of the doubt. After all, if you believe something to be true, it’s not a lie.
Even if his helicopter was never struck, it still sounds like it was a pretty harrowing event. I know nothing about post traumatic stress disorder, but I don’t think it’s so far-fetched to think that a scary experience like that can cause someone to fuzz the details over time inside their head.
I also think that it took a lot of integrity to admit his mistake on air. By virtue of him admitting the truth live on TV, he created the story and subsequent controversy. And I think it was a brave move that many others wouldn’t have done unless they were left no choice.
Williams confronted this dead on, and I think he’s doing the right thing by taking some time off. But for his sake, and for people who still believe in journalistic integrity, I hope he comes back.
And if turns out he did manipulate the truth to attract more attention to himself, then by all means, I take back what I said.
But until then, let’s all remember that his daughter recently received a rimjob on television.
Dinner conversations in the Williams household must be pretty awkward lately.