prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

When the News Reporter Becomes the News Maker

Posted by prof e on February 8, 2015

Brian Williams, anchor of NBC Nightly News for more than 10 years, is stepping down from his nightly responsibilities. While it is unclear for how long he will be gone, it is a sign that Williams and NBC are beginning to take seriously the damage that has been done to his professional career by his failure to accurately remember (or his intentional misrepresentation of) events that took place in the recent past.

At question is an incident while reporting on the war in Iraq. According to various recollections by Williams he was in a helicopter that was either under fire, took a hit from an R.P.G., and/or was forced down. Military personnel who were there recall it differently and have been upset that Williams has been twisting the facts to make it appear that he was in greater danger than was the case. In a separate case, Williams’s reporting after Hurricane Katrina is also being questioned.

Social media has not been kind. The hashtag #BrianWilliamsMisremembers has dogged Williams since the story broke and fellow journalists are not coming to his rescue. Some are piling on, according to the New York Times. “Brian Williams will be fine,” Andy Levy, a Fox News commentator, wrote on Twitter. “If he can survive being hit by an R.P.G., he can survive this.”

Journalism is a business that trades in credibility and the fair exchange of accurate information in a timely manner. If any part of that equation is missing, the value of the information plummets. For a network anchor who is reported by the New York Times to be worth about $2M a year, the loss of value is significant. According to the Times, at his recent contract negotiations “Deborah Turness, the president of NBC News, called him one of ‘the most trusted journalists of our time.’” Also according to the Times,

Before the episode, Mr. Williams long had been considered one of the most trusted people in not only in the news business but in the country as a whole. He was trusted by about three-quarters of consumers, making him the 23rd-most-trusted person in the country, according to the celebrity index of The Marketing Arm, a research firm owned by Omnicom. That places him alongside the likes of Denzel Washington, Warren E. Buffett and Robin Roberts.

That was then, this is now. Brian Williams’s credibility is on the line and only time will tell if American consumers of news will forgive him the lapse in judgement.

One Response to “When the News Reporter Becomes the News Maker”

  1. Allison Narro said

    This article really shows are hard society can be on the media. The term yellow journalism means nothing to us now but everything these reporters are doing is exactly what yellow journalism is. One of the most important attributes to a good journalist is being objective and credible. If more than one person is saying that Brian Williams, lied then it’s hard to prove he wasn’t. That’s why being a reporter can be so hard because you never know who to trust and who not to.

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