Editorial: IN THE LOOP What we should learn from Brian Williams

Honesty and the truth sometimes are not as appealing as making a great story and being the center of attention. This is exactly what happened to Brian Williams, the now suspended anchor of NBC Nightly News. He embellished stories of what had happened to him when he was on assignment reporting in Iraq, stating that the helicopter he was riding in was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

In reality, the helicopter was never hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.
Perhaps he thought by telling this story, he could relate to America’s military families better, draw them in and emotionally connect with them. Or maybe it was a case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as Yahoo! and other sites have speculated. Perchance it was, as one New Yorker article hypothesized, a case of a God-complex. Williams was a highly respected, renowned journalist who rose to his helm at NBC Nightly News quickly. With Williams being a man of high stature and status in the world of journalism, a God-complex essentially states that he would do anything to maintain that status. He must have felt powerful with his highly-inflated ego and impressive resume. In order to keep his status as that top-tier journalist, he needed a good story.

Regardless of the reasons for misleading millions about the truth of the story, a journalist needs to maintain his or her integrity. The foundations of true journalism are honesty and knowing when to apologize. For 12 years, Williams continued to tell the story until someone took the time to fact check it. Even if a journalist is telling a story he experienced himself, he should take the time to fact check. A formerly revered journalist fell from grace because of a misstep in telling the truth. Not only did his career become tarnished from this incident, but his lack of honesty and integrity tainted the entire profession of journalism and the media as a whole. For an industry already struggling to gain the trust of its viewers, readers and listeners, Williams took the industry back several steps.

Editorials in the “In the Loop” section reflect the majority opinion of the Editorial Board, comprised of five editors.

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