MBU Timeline blogs about Brian Williams, journalistic integrity and the bottom line of broadcast news.
Graphic by: Chris Curry
The recent revelation that NBC news anchor Brian Williams fabricated at least one major story — and perhaps several more — has led to his suspension without pay for six months. The incident brings up several questions.
Is the suspension too severe? Not severe enough? Can Williams’ career as the face of American broadcast journalism ever fully recover from this? Should it?
Has NBC’s investigation into other allegations that Williams made up stories rather than reporting them as they happened been thorough enough? And what about the credibility of NBC News, generally considered one of the most trustworthy broadcasts in the nation?
Or, more importantly, what about the credibility of journalism as a whole? After all, this is an industry with consistent trust issues in the eyes of a cynical public.
And of course, what will this do to NBC’s bottom line? After all, the TV news industry is all about ratings. These are some of the questions our bloggers at MBU Timeline are analyzing today.
By CHELSIE BARTLEY
It’s in our nature to stretch the truth.
As imperfect humans, we have a need to be recognized for the fantastical things that happen to us, true or not.
On more than one occasion I have found myself on the border of a lie and the truth, teetering and telling myself that it doesn’t hurt anyone if I insert some embellishment.
For the most part, it doesn’t, but then again, I am a small speck in this big world.
Brian Williams, however, is not.
Being as prominent as he is in the news industry, well-looked-up-to, followed in stride, we in the Journalism world could only hope to someday be as influential as he is, or was.
So, what does it mean when the most trusted and noteworthy news anchor in our country is caught in the fire of his own R.P.G., so to speak?
Do our standards drop, or do NBC’s ratings?
What can this mean for Journalists?
In the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, the Preamble states, “Ethical journalism strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough.”
Journalists should always deliver the news with truth as their ultimate goal.
As journalists, we have a responsibility clearly set out that says we are to deliver the whole truth and nothing but the truth to our fellow consumers.
The fact that Brian Williams was initially allowed to be the master of his fate in this situation said a lot about how lightly we take the truth.
Recently, NBC decided it was better for ratings and Williams to suspend him without pay for six months, saying they were willing to give him a second chance.
We can only hope he learns the value of his words in that time.
The whole point of being a journalist is that we deliver hard-hitting, accurate and poignant news and that we give our readers and watchers the best we can offer.
Americans deserve more from us than improbable tall-tales designed to make us look better.
Integrity still matters.
By LYNN TYLER
Being a news anchor is a career I strive for.
Presenting facts, credibility and integrity are all a part of the journalism world.
It has been discovered that Brian Williams has been reporting information that may not be 100 percent accurate.
Williams apologized on air Wednesday, Feb. 4, however the uproar and frustration from the audience continued to manifest.
He offered to take an open-ended leave of absence but NBC News President Deborah Turness and staff have suspended him without pay for six months.
Many have asked if this leave of absence is justifiable.
Turness said, “We felt it would have been wrong to disregard the good work Brian has done and the special relationship he has forged with our viewers over 22 years. Millions of Americans have turned to him every day, and he has been an important and well-respected part of our organization.”
By JAMES KING
Lying will get you nowhere, but suspended for six months without pay?
Brian Williams is being investigated for lying about an Iraq War mission in 2003.
NBC News President Deborah Turness informed everybody about Williams’ suspension decision Tuesday, Feb. 10.
The Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics says, “seek the truth and report it.”
Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair.
Journalists should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.
Steve Burke, a Williams colleague, said in a statement, “He deserves a second chance and we are rooting for him.”
Joe Scarborough, another colleague of Williams, said, “I’m hopeful when the madness — when the fury dies down and the decision is made to judge what Brian Williams’ future should be, that the decision will be based on the entirety of his career and not on one or two or three mistakes.”
Williams’ fans, friends and the audience that watches him are still behind him and support him a lot.
I personally have never watched Williams do a broadcast but I have always heard a lot about him and how good he his.
I’m hoping he makes a return to NBC one day.
By BRITTANY GAMMON
“No legacy is as rich as honesty,” said William Shakespeare.
Years of hard work, months of reporting and hours of writing built Brian Williams’ legacy.
In one story, all of the work stands for nothing and is put into question.
Williams is a well-known journalist and reporter.
With fame comes much responsibility.
An honest, “I was wrong for my actions and words. Please forgive me as I work to regain your trust,” apology would speak more words than Williams has already spoken.
Stepping down for the time being will give Williams a chance to slip into the majority and evaluate his next steps in life.
I in no way support the fabrication of the story, but this is a wonderful opportunity for other news stations to promote how they deliver honest stories.
Honesty is rich as Shakespeare explains.
By MILES CHASE
How should “NBC Nightly News” react to the lies told by Brian Williams?
Imagine your most seasoned news anchor is called out for lying to the whole world for years.
It is a humiliating situation.
Williams has been caught lying about being in a helicopter that was bombarded by a rocket launcher.
Williams is saying he is “stepping away from the Nightly News for the next several days.”
It seems as if he is inciting his furlough, avoiding the embarrassment of the Nightly News.
It is inevitable that his reputation has been damaged, but NBC is handling the situation as they see fit.
“Williams has been suspended without pay for six months after admitting last week that a story he told about coming under fire on a helicopter during the Iraq war was not true,” the network stated.
I agree, some penalty must be endured by Williams, it is only fair.
Lying and being a major media icon do not reflect positively on news reporting and journalism.
I hope that he learns his lesson and applies it in all walks in life, especially news casting.
By REBEKAH RUTLEDGE
Why did he do it?
We live in a culture that thrives on entertainment.
Movies, sports, TV, Facebook, the list goes on and on.
Unfortunately, with this high level of entertainment, the news is being forced to entertain as well.
Not that this is any excuse, but I think that was all Brian Williams was trying to do when he began telling his stories.
He was giving the people what they wanted … drama, struggle and heroes.
By RICKIE ROSS
While our grandfathers have been exaggerating stories for years, and that is simply something that comes with the job, it is not something that comes with reporting news stories on national television.
Brian Williams has been one of the most famous and prominent news anchors of our day, but at what cost?
How much exaggeration is too much?
While he has been accepted by most as significantly entertaining, the ultimate goal of journalism and news is not to be entertaining.
The goal is to give the facts honestly.
Williams’ actions cannot be disputed. He was lying, and the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics states that journalists must “seek truth and report it.”
It is very simple: people in the media are to be honest in reporting the news, but Williams has not been.
NBC has decided to give him a second chance, however.
He has been suspended from NBC for six months, a punishment that I believe fits the crime.
He made mistakes and there should be consequences, but he will be given another chance to become an anchor once more, hopefully in the right way this time.
The punishment will be used in hopes that Williams will learn his lesson and be able to return to the station to report the news honestly and with integrity.
We don’t want to see Williams gone forever, he is an icon in the industry.
We simply want to know that we can trust him.
By KAYLA GLYSHAW
Forgive and forget?
Does this apply to Brian Williams’ latest mistake?
A journalist’s job is to report reality.
One of the things that my mom always jokingly told me was, “If it’s online, then it must be true.”
The media already has a reputation of not being completely reliable.
This concept of people not telling the truth in media is not a newly developed thought.
The question is though, why does this story create such an earthquake?
Williams was considered a prized jewel in the world of writing and reporting.
When someone who holds such a high regard in the eyes of many, not only fails to state the truth, but also attempts to cover it up, it causes people to question everything that they read.
Deborah Turness, the president of NBC News, said, “This was wrong and completely inappropriate for someone in Brian’s position.”
As the story unfolds, the question is, after his suspension, will Williams be able to climb back up the ladder or is his career as a journalist over?
By HANNAH BALLARD
Trusting the media?
It’s a hard concept for many people to grasp.
For the most part, many people want to be able to turn on the news and trust what they are saying.
However, as soon as a story comes out about the media not telling the truth, people begin to question them.
With Brian Williams not telling the whole truth in his reporting, it brings into question a lot of what has been reported by Williams.
Other questions begin as well.
Where is this man’s ethics or morals?
Then people start to question the media’s ethics and morals as a whole.
People do not like not knowing the truth.
Once the reporter breaks the reader or viewer’s trust, it becomes difficult for the public to believe anything the reporter says.
In life, ethics and morals play a huge role.
I personally think ethics and morals are so important.
By JESSE KASSEBAUM
We watch the news in order to gain the truth.
With the world the way it is, there are many websites and blogs that offer news on current events, with many of these appearing illegitimate.
To gain the truth and facts about these events, we turn to programs such as NBC as the ultimate source of knowledge and truth.
We feel as citizens that they will always tell us the truth and give us the real concrete facts.
All this has changed drastically, however, with the recent issues surrounding NBC’s anchorman Brian Williams.
According to The Washington Post, Williams lied about his experiences during his visit to Iraq.
Williams claimed to have been riding in a military helicopter when it was suddenly shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
He was later called out by members of the same helicopter saying that it was not their helicopter that was shot down but the one in front of them.
While this story has gained much popularity, another story sprang up with Williams at the center.
According to USA Today, Williams also lied about an event he witnessed while stationed in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
Williams claimed to have seen a body float by his hotel room which was located in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
The New Orleans Advocate stated that the French Quarter was mostly dry during that time and even had local officials questioning Williams’ story.
As a result of the public finding out the truth about Williams’ stories, the NBC senior officials have suspended Williams for six months without pay.
The question that many people are asking now is, is the punishment too severe? Or not severe enough?
For many fellow journalists, the punishment does not fit the crime.
By HOLLY FLIEG
I think that the decision to suspend Brian Williams for six months is an appropriate punishment for his mistake.
Everyone makes mistakes, they lie and stretch the truth sometimes, even celebrities.
From what I have read, Williams has been a very successful, well-liked and trusted news anchor.
It’s a shame that one incident has tarnished his reputation so much.
Williams apologized for his lie of being in a military helicopter that was shot down by enemy fire.
I think that his apology was sincere and he truly regrets his mistake.
According to The Washington Post, Williams may not be able to return to the anchor chair, which he has been in for the past decade.
I don’t think that this situation is severe enough for him to lose his job.
By KARA SASIELA
The issue with Brian Williams is that he is the face the public sees when they hear NBC News.
The audience needs to be able to trust the source of their news and with the lies Williams told, viewers may question past and future news stories told by him.
According to USA Today, NBC News President Deborah Turness stated that his suspension was a hard decision to make.
I think the only reason why the decision was difficult is because Williams is the face of NBC News and he has been for years, making it much harder to replace him.
Williams violated the most sacred rule of journalism by lying on multiple occasions.
Many of the younger generation often get their news somewhere besides TV, so they may not even be aware of the situation and it won’t be as big of a deal to them.
However, I think that Williams should not come back as the anchor because those who watch the news on a regular basis will always have a seed of doubt in Williams’ credibility.
Much like the boy who cried wolf, Williams’ one or two lies were forgivable by viewers, but more than that and there is a chance they will lose their trust in him.
By JOSHUA DAUGETTE
In the debate about what to do with Brian Williams, I am more focused on the mass reaction instead of his actions.
It of course is a shame when highly influential individuals lie.
However, it is just a lie and we all do lie to satisfy our own ends at one point or another.
I do not think Williams should be fired; I don’t think he should be under so much heat; I am empathetic toward being caught up in a lie.
I am dumbfounded by the hypocrisy of the scoffing masses.
How can anyone make a judgment as though they have never lied to fulfill their own desires?
I recently read a post on Facebook that stated Williams was a terrible journalist just because of the lie.
How does one mistake collapse an entire career?
One human being calling another a terrible anything because of falsehood is the pot calling the kettle black.
Of course, more information is coming forth, but completely disregarding all the work he is done for a couple fibs is overkill.
Credibility-wise, everything should be taken with a grain of salt and multiple sources should be utilized.
To use only one source and completely trust it is the fault of the viewer.
By SIERRA THOMPSON
When such a well-known news anchor makes a mistake, it can have a severe effect on the industry.
People watch the news to gain information on the truth.
NBC will have to deal with the consequences of Brian Williams’ actions.
His credibility can directly alter the credibility of the network.
It is important for NBC to show that there are consequences so people do not believe that NBC is a dishonest network.
The credibility of journalism has always been an issue and something had to be done.
Williams was suspended for six months without pay for his false claims.
I think that it was a good call for Williams to be suspended.
People need to see that there are consequences for being untruthful.
If there are no consequences then people will continue to question the credibility of the news.
Everybody makes mistakes and his time away from the news will give people the chance to forgive him.
By VLADYMI JOSEPH
Brian Williams deserves the punishment that has happened to him and the punishments that may happen to him in the future.
According to USA TODAY, NBC News President Deborah Turness said they believe the suspension is the appropriate and proportionate action.
For someone with such high power in a major news station like NBC, Williams will have much work to do in order to gain the trust of people around the world and the NBC News family.
I personally believe that NBC has responded in a positive way by suspending Williams for six months without pay, but NBC News will probably lose a lot of viewers who enjoyed watching Williams on the nightly news.
Williams has definitely made a big mistake and should face further punishment for his actions.
The world will anxiously wait to see what happens in the next six months.
By ABIGAIL CRAIN
Brian Williams has ahead of him an uphill battle to regain the trust of Americans who watch his newscasts.
According to The New York Times, the chief executive of NBC Universal, Stephen P. Burke, says that NBC is cheering Williams on toward his reinstatement as the Nightly News anchor.
However, Americans seem to be feeling less than cheery toward him right now.
Personally, I think the situation should be forgiven and forgotten; who can fault another person for being a human being and making a mistake?
I am a firm believer in second chances, after all, if God had not sent Jesus we would all be permanently doomed after our first sin.
So I think that only giving him a six-month suspension was a good choice, but it is going to be hard for Williams to ever recover career-wise.
It would probably help if he gave a more sincere-sounding apology, rather than the “I’m sorry I got caught; here’s what my superiors want me to say” speech he gave at first.
Only time will tell, but I think Williams has unfortunately dug himself into a hole out of which he may never completely climb, unless America’s forgiveness pulls him out.
By CHRISTOPHER CURRY
In the wake of a massive gaff by Brian Williams over several stories that he fluffed so that he was a more prominent figure within, there is a story that is simmering underneath.
Yes, Williams caused his own problems, but by taking himself off the air, and not waiting for the network to discipline him, he stated that he was more important than NBC.
NBC, needing to take a strong stance in the public eye to retain credibility, has left themselves options with giving the six-month suspension it levied against Brian Williams: they can either retain the relationship between themselves and Williams, or they can release Williams.
Looking at the fact that Jon Stewart, the seventh most trusted journalist in the U.S., has just left “The Daily Show,” things seem to be in motion to change up the “Nightly News.”