Op-Ed: Brian Williams should be given a second chance


Photo courtesy David Shankbone

Brian Williams and his wife Jane Williams at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival. Williams was recently given a sixth month suspension without pay for fabricating a story about the Iraq War.

Brian Williams is the number one news anchor in the business. He has an enormous fan base of over nine million, and he has earned millions of dollars reporting stories for NBC Nightly News as a journalist and anchor for the past ten years.

For all of his fans, it is heartbreaking to discover his story was made up. A six month suspension without pay was issued from the show for embellishing a story about his experiences in Iraq in 2003.

He was in a helicopter and it was “being fired upon with an RPG”, rocket powered grenade, and he was “scared for his life.”

The problem with what Williams did is that he has tainted people’s views on journalism. He was trying to make a simple news story this elaborate and dangerous situation when it was far from that.

Another story NBC News has discovered that could’ve been falsified is from CNN, when Williams’ claim of flying into Baghdad with SEAL Team 6 and about “war memorabilia the anchor claims to have received as gifts, including a Navy SEAL’s knife and a piece of the helicopter from the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.”

CNN analyst Peter Bergen said on “Anderson Cooper 360” that he was told by sources in the Seal community that it would be impossible for Williams to have ever traveled with Seal Team 6.

The job of reporting news is factual and serious, but with the embellishments of stories it shows he tried to get one over on the public to see what he could get away with.

Williams has become a celebrity, and most journalists don’t even reach this point. It is great that he is well liked and respected, but trying to gain popularity by making up events in his true stories just isn’t okay.

An article published by USA Today talked about the Brian William’s incident and addressed his punishment.  Mark Feldstein, a broadcast journalism professor at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md released a statement on his take of the situation.

“It’s basically a slap on the wrist. If you or I had done this, we’d have been fired immediately. He’s a franchise with a following, and I think that is a lot more important to corporate executives than mere sentimentality. I think they’re trying to preserve the Williams brand that they’ve invested millions in,” Feldstein.

This point Feldstein makes is very valid. Being a news anchor isn’t like being a president, you can’t be impeached or voted out. The position of a news anchor is decided upon by the CEO and president of the company, in this case NBC.

Watching the news every night is what millions of people do and now they have to question if other reporters are doing the same thing. You have to think where do they go for ‘news’.

Williams started off a journalist. Even as a news anchor the purpose of his job is to inform the public about the news going on around the country and in Williams’ case what is happening all over the world.

Williams reputation has taken a hit, but he should have thought about his credibility and fanbase before his actions.

NBC Nightly News fans surely all aren’t happy with the suspension, but most see the necessary need to take action to prove he isn’t above the contract of reporting only facts and not to lie.

It is up to them if Williams comes back, but they really need to investigate the other stories that Williams reported. If there are any other embellished stories, will anyone else think that NBC has credibility and integrity in their reporting and in their publications?

Mike Moxley is a Multimedia Editor for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.