Feb 9, 2015
Post A Comment
So says TVWeek Open Mic blogger Chuck Ross in an insightful essay you can read if you click here.
Thanks to Chuck Ross for laying out the facts of Brian Williams’ original report so clearly. While Chuck steered clear of the sanctimony and moralizing that typify other summaries of Williams’ behavior, he still strongly implies that Williams deliberately filed a report he knew to be false. That’s the part I find hard to believe. While there was little social media in 2003, Williams surely knew that his report could be quickly contradicted by the Republican-controlled Defense Department, ordinary soldiers or rival news agencies. Williams’ subsequent fictional “mission creep” is unseemly but, as Chuck suggests, a separate issue. Sadly, these days NBC’s decision won’t be based on the precepts of Murrow or even Brokaw, but on audience research and the net effect on Comcast’s Time Warner Cable deal.
I don’t want to be guilty of piling on but i do find myself wondering why Manhattan anchors are so fond of dashing off to combat zones. Of course I know why–their networks want to give the impression that the big star of the newscast is very much a real reporter on top of real news. When the reporter shows himself to be less than terrific as a reporter of fact, it more or less defeats the purpose. I also find myself remembering that Brian Williams is one of those snazzy and telegenic new-breed anchors who came up through the ranks of local TV news, which is not exactly a hotbed of excellent news reporting. Local TV news rewards sizzle, not steak, and it attracts talent that aspires more to stardom than to informing the public. That is not the culture of print journalism, which has long been dominated by men and women with faces made for radio and values obsessed with fact and accuracy. Cronkite had a background in print as did almost all of the old Murrow gang and I don’t think that their eventual excellence as broadcast journalists is coincidental. I also don’t think many if any of those guys would make it in TV journalism today, especially at the local level. I know that local TV contains good journalism but far too often folks who work in that area are less focused on informing an audience than they are on simply attracting one. It’s the nature of their medium and the obession of their superiors and as a result the value of presenting facts accurately and precisely gets pushed way down the list of priorities. None of this is to excuse or even explain what Brian Williams appears to have done but rather to point out that in a way what happened is part of a broader tendency of TV journalism to favor and reward smoke and mirrors over facts and substance. Perhaps Mr. Williams’ memory did play tricks on him or perhaps he simply lied. In either event it seems likely that shooting from the lip is something he has long been rewarded for doing without a lot of thought even if he sometimes misses the mark.
Email (will not be published)