The truth isn’t optional

February 12, 2015







Brian Williams is a liar.


The host of NBC Nightly News has recently come under fire for his falsified account of the downing of his helicopter by a an RPG while he was reporting in Iraq.


Williams has recently come out saying that he has “misremembered” the supposed events of 2003. How you can misremember being shot down in a hostile territory is beyond me.


What is even more beyond me, however, are the plethora of commenters on social media who do not understand this is a huge problem.


Williams has been put on six months unpaid leave, a step that should lead next to his inevitable firing.


Many people, however, do not see it this way. Some claim that lying is rampant, so there is no reason for Williams to be held accountable. Others simply do not want to see him punished because they like him, a sort of misguided loyalty to a journalistic icon.


David Carr, a media columnist for The New York Times, recently wrote, “I don’t know if Mr. Williams will lose his job. I don’t think he should — His transgressions were not a fundamental part of his primary responsibilities.”


Okay, but here’s the thing: his transgressions were absolutely part of his primary responsibilities.


The only thing a journalist has to do is report facts. The core of our job is the truth.


Now I cannot speak for the massive amount of pressure Williams feels as part of his job, but I can say that a breach of journalistic ethics like that tells me a lot about who he is.


Dan Rather, one of the most famous journalists of all time, lost his job basically for reporting falsehoods about George W. Bush.


Journalists must be extraordinarily careful to screen what they tell the populace.


It seems as if Williams decided ratings were better than actual news, and went the route of a basic tabloid: reporting gross exaggerations.


In a country that does not know how much it does not value actual journalism, Williams was one of the holdouts of credible reporting.


And it fell apart.


In the aftermath of this, Williams’ claims of floating dead bodies and Superdome suicides he witnessed during Katrina have also come under scrutiny.


His flagrant exaggeration of the Iraq events, and his refusal to truly own up to his mistake (c’mon, “misremembered”?) does not exactly breed confidence in these other events.


Journalism is about truth, or, at least, it should be.


Williams’ statements were basic ratings pandering, and it shows he has an obsession with his journalistic self-image.


We need journalists who tell stories, not make them up.


John Sadler is a junior journalism major from Extension who serves as editor for The Tech Talk. Email comments to jts040@latech.edu.


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