By PHOEBE SOLOMON
The past few days have been ridden with news of Brian Williams, an NBC newscaster who falsified personal anecdotes on air.Williams claimed that a helicopter he was in was struck by enemy fire in Iraq during a story honoring Army officer Tim Terpak.
Since Williams publicly apologized on air for his embellishments, the NBC anchor removed himself from the air. Soon after this decision, Williams was suspended by NBC for six months without pay. Many maintain that Williams’ journalistic reputation has been perpetually tainted and are calling for his resignation. For over a decade, Williams has acted as an anchor for NBC and, in that time, has become one of the most trusted faces in American media journalism. It is for this reason that some are so appalled and find the inaccurate storytelling so egregious.
The fact of the matter is this: Williams has been falsifying the story for years since 2003 when the events in Iraq transpired. As Williams’ reputation grew, the falsified accounts have been told. As with any unpleasant scandal, the outcry begins only after the wrongdoing is exposed. Williams’ fabricated accounts are so deeply planted and intertwined with his career that it would be difficult to ignore all the excellent work he has done as an NBC anchor in the years since Williams first began altering his frightening war story.
There is no way to regulate anyone’s secret behaviors, a truth that extends to news anchors. It would be difficult for any regulation prohibiting the embellishment of any story by news anchors to be enforced. Therefore, no reform can be truly won by seeking Brian Williams’ resignation, except for the miniscule minority of the public sphere who found the false account offensive on a personal level. Additionally, although Williams did deliver the fabricated story on air, and even if Williams has a tendency toward falsifying accounts, it would be nearly impossible for this characteristic to affect the most important part of his job, which is to deliver objective news to America.
In retrospect, the inaccurate story was shared during a tribute to a member of the United States military. Although the segment was deserving of attention, it did not serve as hard-pressing news. Demanding the resignation of Brian Williams may seem to be the honest, just path to take, but energy should be spent seeking reform or change in more important realms of society.
Media outlets are crucial in our society, and Williams did not substantially alter the nature of news casting. Converting this falsified account into anything more than just that – a falsified account – would only serve to perpetuate an issue that should be considered solved. Despite an inaccurate account by one trusted newscaster, the general public will still receive its fair share of objective and biased news sources.
For those who feel as though Williams has, in some way, betrayed their trust, it must be mentioned that his primary purpose is to deliver the news, not gain trust. As far as the fundamental structure of news – or even news casting – is concerned, the embellished story by Brian Williams will hardly make an impact.