Sunday, February 8, 2015

My two cents on Brian Williams

Brian Williams is a reporter now being reported about. He has anchored NBC's Nightly News for a decade and a year, and he's so charming and beloved that it's hard to believe he's now making headlines for lying.

Hearing that Williams had lied about his heroic history was like hearing the results of the Wainstein report earlier this year. Dishonesty is probably man's greatest fault, and is certainly among the least forgivable. 

I find myself, however, wanting to forgive Williams. The New York Times published a mashup of newscasts and TV appearances where he talked about his helicopter being hit by a grenade and subsequently making an emergency landing. 

The story evolved over time, becoming more embellished with each retelling, and it has had a long time to evolve. It's not like Williams woke up and said, "I'm going to invent this fantastic war story to make people like me more." In the push to be interesting and likable, Williams, over the course of ten years, took some artistic liberty with the truth. 

Unfortunately, when a journalist takes artistic liberty with the truth, it moves his or her reporting from non-fiction to fiction. It's like we're finding "Treasure Island" in the UL's collection of books about aquatic mammals. Now we want to make sure no other "books" were misplaced between fact and fiction. 

It's difficult to predict how this will affect the newscaster's career. Personally, I hope NBC will give him the boot, but you never know. I really think it's time, regardless of the scandal, for NBC to replace any newscasters – except for maybe Al Roker – who have been there for ten years or more.

NBC has an unpleasant history of firing anchors on air, like the Ann Curry fiasco, which devastated both her and viewers. So I'm pretty doubtful they'll make the right choice. 


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