WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Stretching the Truth

Feb 17, 2015

The nightly newscasts on the TV networks draw a fraction of the audience they once did, but the fall of NBC lead anchor Brian Williams still sent shock waves through the industry.

Shop Talk panelist Jasmine Crighton feels older Americans – who account for a sizeable part of the audience for the nightly newscasts – are quite upset about what happened to Williams.  And Crighton pointed out Williams is well-known even to those who don’t watch the nightly news because his appearances on other shows made him a pop culture personality.

But Crighton said it was important for NBC to take charge and decide on a punishment (a six month suspension) rather than allowing Williams to decide how long he should remain off the air.  She said this will set a precedent for how the network treats other anchors and reporters who lie or exaggerate.

Williams is not the first journalist to become embroiled in an ethics scandal. Panelist Rich Moreno said it’s even happened in the world of print where, for example, Bob Greene lost his job after he was caught plagiarizing.  But Moreno feels the Williams case is different because he came into people’s homes through their televisions.  Moreno said that gave Williams great power but it also meant he had a great responsibility.

Panelist Rich Egger concurred.  He said that as anchor of the nightly news, Williams was the face of NBC News.  His exaggerations could do more than damage his career – they could harm the entire news division’s reputation.