I like Brian Williams. I’ve always found him entertaining. As far as delivering the news, I don’t think he’s better or worse than anyone else. How could he be? It’s the news—you either tell it or you don’t.
But that’s the problem. We don’t really want the news. We prefer the feel-good stories that substitute as news—the items that come after that first commercial break. If we really wanted the news we’d watch PBS.
Still Brian Williams made a mistake—he took liberties with the part of the news after the first commercial. He turned a feel-good story into a feel-too-good story by adding fictitious details. It was so unnecessary: we’d have been happy with the feel-good story alone. Didn’t he know we’re not that choosy anymore?
So now Brian Williams is taking some time off to weigh the possibilities and become the butt of jokes. Many people want him gone for good. They accuse him of stealing valor, of turning a soldier’s heroic act into his own. I don’t think Mr. Williams said to himself beforehand, “Mmmh, let’s see, tonight I’ll steal some valor.” In fact with what we’ve learned about memory the past few days since Mr. Williams conflated those events in the Middle East, it’s entirely possible that he made an honest mistake. I’ll let the experts figure that out.
Let’s not, however, fall for this shibboleth that news anchors need to be held to a higher standard. Really? Higher than who? Higher than politicians who control the operation of this country?
Texas republican governor Rick Perry currently faces two felony charges.
Before he became Florida’s republican governor, Rick Scott was the CEO of Columbia/HCA which was fined a total of $1.7 billion for Medicare and Medicaid fraud.
So as not to slight the democrats, Queens Assemblyman William Scarborough faces 23 state and 11 federal charges over misuse of campaign funds.
They say Brian Williams has done this kind of thing before—enhanced stories to make them more compelling. I hope that’s not true, but if it is, well, I can’t lament that I put him on a pedestal and he let me down. I don’t own a pedestal. And if he doesn’t “give it to us straight” the way Walter Cronkite did, it’s because we don’t want it straight anymore. Seriously does it really matter who tells us a story involving pandas or kittens, or William Kate and Prince George arriving home after their Caribbean vacation?
Maybe stories like that become so mind-numbing after a time, that making stuff up is the only way to say sane.