Brian Williams. One of America’s most well known television anchors and most trusted journalist. Well he was.
These past few weeks have been rough for Brian Williams. Earlier this month Williams admitted to falsely reporting a story that he was in a fallen helicopter that was hit by ground fire in 2003 in Iraq. Williams has publically apologized several times both on air and in writing. On Feb. 10, NBC suspended him for six months from the Nightly News without pay.
Over the years, his story had slightly changed about his 2003 experience in Iraq. After the incident he publically described that he was traveling in a group of helicopters that were forced down in the Iraqi desert. They spent three days in the desert due to a sandstorm. However, five years later in a 2008 blog post, Williams wrote that the helicopter in front of him had been hit from what appeared to be by Iraqi farmers with RPGs. Then in 2013, he appeared on David Letterman’s, Late Show; Williams said that all four helicopters including the one he was in had been hit. But earlier this month, all of the details were brought to light when Williams reported he had mistaken some of his Iraq reporting on the Nightly News during a tribute to a veteran he had befriended back in 2003.
Williams holds one of the most respected names in journalism. He has won countless awards including the George Foster Peabody Award, the highest honor in the field of journalism. Additionally, Williams held the anchor position on NBC Nightly News, the nations top-rated nightly news program for 10 years (2004-2014). In 2006, Time named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world. In 2011, he started Rock Center with Brian Williams—NBC’s first primetime newsmagazine in nearly two decades.
But now, he’s fighting to maintain his reputation. Just because he is off air for six months does not mean this scandal will disappear quietly and, when he does resurface, who is to say he will even be considered a reputable journalist in the slightest way?
Being a journalism major myself, I use to look up to Brian Williams and I truly considered him to be one of my favorite journalists. But I have lost total respect for him because from the day I began studying journalism, it has been drilled into my head to never fabricate stories. Why Williams did it will never be truthfully answered but I have ideas. As with most journalists that have fabricated stories, for example the notorious Stephen Glass, when journalists are on top, they want to stay there so instead of just doing their job they think they have to get “creative” and enhance their stories. If they wanted to have creative stories then they should be creative fiction writers, simple as that. It’s a journalist’s duty to cover the news and deliver the truth to the people so everyone can be informed.
It goes without say that Williams definitely regrets what he did but he can’t go back. He dedicated a decade of his life to the Nightly News and instead of being remembered for all his work over the years, he will be known as another journalist who fell victim to fabrication and jeopardized his career.
Photo Credit: Justin Stephens (NBC Photo)