The recent scandal involving Brian Williams, an all-time favorite anchor of the “NBC Nightly News,” has attracted the attention of millions of viewers worldwide. Williams has been under scrutiny after recanting a story he has told for years about being on a helicopter in Iraq that was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG). His exaggerated tale of combat has proven to be detrimental to his career in NBC. “We have decided today to suspend Brian Williams as managing editor and anchor of ‘NBC Nightly News’ for six months,” NBC News President Deborah Turness said in a statement on Tuesday, February 10th. “The suspension will be without pay and is effective immediately. We let Brian know of our decision earlier today. Lester Holt will continue to substitute anchor the ‘NBC Nightly News.’”
It turned out that Williams was on the helicopter behind the Chinook helicopter that got struck by the RPG. Later on Facebook, Williams made a public apology to his viewers and supporters, stating that it was “the fog of memory over 12 years” that has led him to “conflate” the events. According to inside sources, Williams is deeply distraught over his suspension, and acutely aware that he brought the situation on himself. But he and his advisors believe that if he takes full responsibility for his actions and seeks counseling, he can come back to the air at NBC, despite the six month suspension.
As the anchor of “NBC’s Nightly News” since 2004, Brian Williams has been considered as one of the network’s most important assets. Once the 23rd most trusted celebrity in the country, Williams has dropped to No. 835, according to the Marketing Arm, a unit of Omnicom Group. His six-month suspension from NBC Nightly News is shaking up the television world, but also the world of journalism. The main principle of journalism, according to Pew Research Center, is to remain truthful. Williams, considered to be a world-renowned journalist, has failed to keep up with his obligation to truthfulness. “Journalism is all about being truthful no matter what the subject, so his lie really goes against the values of journalism,” said BSGE student Claire Bergerson, ‘17. Despite Williams’ inappropriate actions, NBC News stood by him, stating that Williams “deserves a second chance and we are rooting for him.”
As a journalist, I believe that the NBC made the right decision in giving Brian Williams a chance to repent for his atrocious actions. His attempt to receive public attention by spreading fake valor is no different from others who have done the same, whether it is an ordinary person or a renowned politician. In fact, I strongly believe that all of us have tried to gain more attention or popularity by exaggerating our accomplishments. Why should we deprive a public figure his right to deciding his own reputation, if we have all committed the same “unforgivable” crime in trying to fabricate ours? Yes, Williams is a journalist; it is the duty of a journalist to deliver real, authentic news to the community. However, his lies did not cost the life of any person or affect him/her in any way, but simply stirred up tiny bubbles of disappointment inside his avid group of followers. To give Williams a second chance to anchor for NBC is a great way to have him salvage his degraded reputation.
The most important trait that a journalist should acquire is to be dispassionate about the topic he/she is delivering to the community. Although Williams did step out of his bounds as an anchor and journalist, he does not deserve to be treated so harshly by critics and viewers. After all, it is mostly due to him that NBC has such riveting influence over the world. Since he took over as anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News in 2004, the broadcast has become the most-watched newscast in all of television and he has become the most highly decorated evening news anchor of the modern era. We should always learn to forgive and err on the side of leniency.