Opinions & Editorials

On Brian Williams

I believed in Brian Williams.
For those who do not know, Brian Williams was the managing editor and anchor of the “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.” Although almost everyone has heard Williams’s name recently, many young people only know Brian Williams as “the liar.”

About three weeks ago, nearly every major news outlet ran a story accusing Brian Williams of lying to the American people on television. Media members worldwide agreed that they have a responsibility to tell the truth and that a newsman is nothing without his trustworthiness.
Brian Williams became a symbol for everything wrong with the press and an instant pariah. NBC suspended him without pay for six months, which pleased some and displeased others. Many of the latter wanted him fired.

Now that we’ve established what the media has reported to us, let’s take a different look.
Few people know the extent of my admiration for anchors like Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. I love the news and may want to spend my life reporting it. As such, I hold a high standard for the quality and veracity of news that I consume. I am fiercely passionate about our right and need to be objectively informed. I believe that even college students have a responsibility to know what is going on in our community, country and world.

However, we live in the age of the 24-hour news cycle. It is better to be fast than accurate. We live in the age of personality-driven news that seeks to endlessly tell us what to think rather than just the facts.

Of course, expecting entirely objective reporting is a fruitless endeavor, but the good reporter will expose verifiable facts and let the public decide once they are informed. Edward R. Murrow is a hero of broadcast news because he made the brave decision to report on Senator Joseph McCarthy’s treatment of suspected communists and believed that the public had a right to judge if it was just. Murrow did not judge McCarthy on air but left the public to do so, suggesting that the issue was worth questioning.

Sadly, modern news seems unable to separate fact from opinion. There may be only one or two news outlets that strive to give the facts, not as the reporters see them, but as they exist.
I have watched many news outlets and many news shows. I trusted Brian Williams, Al-Jazeera America and The Associated Press. Williams has been caught in what appears to be a possibly career-ending lie. I now have been left with the choice to trust or abandon trust in Brian Williams, whom I have spent a half an hour of my day with for the last two and a half years. I will only watch news that I can trust, Cokerbecause everyone deserves to be able to trust his or her news.

This is why I’ve watched the “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” every night and why I so tremendously admire Williams. He tells me facts, not what to think. I have never had a reason to distrust the facts of the news he has told me.

People are human and make mistakes. Mr. Williams is one of us, and he is not perfect. We will never know for certain whether he lied intentionally, but his reporting the controversial story correctly when it happened casts doubt on his deceitful intentions.

bergeman headshot

Nick Bergeman is an English and electronic media double major from Detroit.

Everyone may have a personal opinion on the matter, and I believe that the trauma of the event and distantness of the memory led him to report it falsely. His helicopter was hit by gunfire, even if an RPG hit only the helicopter in front of him. If he knew that he was already on record telling the story correctly, why would he intentionally deceive the public? He would know he would be caught.

Numerous news outlets reported that Brian Williams had been lying about his story for the last 10 years, but the difference in reporting did not exist at all until about five years ago when he told the story on “The Late Show with David Letterman.” He told it as a personal story and not as a news report. The issue arose when he was reporting on the incident retrospectively a few weeks ago.

Williams may have made an honest mistake, but no one will give him the benefit of the doubt. He reported and was wrong about a personal story. Personal memory from 10 years ago is much harder to verify than exterior facts, and we have no evidence to show that Brian Williams has ever lied about those.

Until proven otherwise by error in actual news facts, Brian Williams is the best newsman of our generation. I actually believe that he is the closest thing that we have to Walter Cronkite, and I have looked. Anyone who watches him consistently will know that.

I hope Brian actually comes back after his six months of suspension are done. We can’t afford to lose him because we already have so little.

Brian Williams is one of my news heroes. This has shaken me, but my faith in him still stands. I still believe in Brian Williams.