Saturday, February 07, 2015

Musing on NBC News Anchor, Brian Williams … by gimleteye

What is it, that we expect of television news anchors? The question arises in the tempest around Brian Williams, long-time anchor at NBC Nightly News.

News anchors have to be telegenic, they have to convey neutrality about stories they report, and they have to read well from a teleprompter while establishing empathy with a few million viewers at the same time.

NBC News Anchor Brian Williams has done all with exceptional durability, but he is now under fire from the media punditocracy for over-stating, exaggerating, and even misrepresenting the truth (lying) about an incident that occurred while reporting in The First Iraq War.

"What is clear is that the trustworthiness of one of America’s best-known and most revered TV journalists has been damaged, and that the moral authority of the nightly network news anchor, already diminished in the modern media era, has been dealt another blow." So speaketh the New York Times.

"The man described recently by his boss as the most trusted journalist of our time is accused of betraying that trust and breaking the first rule of journalism. That is — Get it right!" CBC News.

Now hold your horses, breathless ones.

I'm not sure about the 'moral authority', part of it. Who says, news anchors have moral authority? The Dalai Lama has moral authority. We have an entire network of news anchors -- Fox News -- by far the most popular in the U.S. -- that has no moral authority whatsoever, having ceded it long ago to Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes' uncanny business sense of uniting alarmism with advertising revenue. (For an outstanding decoding of Fox, read this recent essay from Alternet: "How Fox creates its own insane reality", by Evan McMurray.)

News anchors have to "get it right", just after the producers decide what it is important to viewing audiences one day to the next, and after script writers finesse the pauses between phrases, and after the real reporters double and triple check their sources (or what the other networks are reporting, if you trust "The Newsroom"). "Moral authority", "getting it right"? Not on my watch.

At any rate, is Brian Williams tarnished for having convinced himself of a personal story when the entire television news industry deals with one form or another of embellishment to rush its product to the marketplace in sound bites on an instantaneous basis?

I'm willing to give Mr. Williams a pass on this one. His faux pas neither increases nor decreases my estimation of what he does and earns many millions a year to do. (Anyhow, don't ask me how I feel about Brian Williams' slip up, ask me how I feel about his making a bizillion dollars for being the best at reaching audiences between advertisements for pharmaceuticals.)

We make an error to put news anchors on any kind of pedestal whatsoever, beyond the desk in the sound studio. In fact, where Mr. Williams shines brightest is on guest appearances with Jon Stewart and "The Daily Show". There, he comfortably sends up his own sense of persona with élan.

It turns out Mr. Williams is self-deprecating and wickedly funny, neither of which he can be on network news, and who doesn't slip into a rabbit suit some days? I'm not saying that Mr. Williams can be forgiven because he is human. Just that he is, simply, a very highly paid news anchor and for that -- in the words of Daniel Tosh -- we thank you.

(In the interest of disclosure, my DVR at home is commanded to retain the last five episodes of NBC News on a rolling basis.)


Anonymous said...

FocksNooze breaks every journalistic rule on an hourly basis.

Anonymous said...

Liberals love their liberal liars. Williams lied about his helicopter being shot down. Hillary Clinton lied about being under sniper fire in Bosnia. Sen. Liz Warren lied about her nonexistent Indian ancestry. Biden lied about his speeches. Sen Blumenthal lied about serving in Vietnam. Odumbo lied about our right to keep our health plans (and so much more).

All huge liberal liars and liberals keep electing and supporting them. #lacking_ethics

Anonymous said...

Something about lying about weapons of mass deception in Iraq triggering $3 billion of taxpayer investment on false pretenses while Osama got awAy. I can't remember who ... But it was probably a liberal liar. No wait ...

youbetcha" said...

Obviously, the liars are on both sides of the line... why the heck do any of them lie? Don't they think we will notice sooner than later?

Anonymous said...

Anon #3, wake up!!!

Do not believe what the MSM spoon feeds you.

Anonymous said...

No matter who does it, a lie is a lie and people who lie cannot be trusted. Somebody on the level of Brian Williams should know that people who lie are seriously lacking in character.

Its bad enough coming from the White House, but coming from a prominent news anchor and presidential candidate as well, make it seem that the people we are supposed to respect, the people who should be leading us are chronic liars.

We have become surrounded by liars and we should not ignore it.

Liars cannot be trusted and if you are a liar, I will have nothing to do with you.

Anonymous said...

Anon above, do you hold the same to be true for Fox News or have you turned that piece of crap off, too?

Gimleteye said...

Have any of the Fox trolls on this blog read the link to the Alternet piece I posted, or, do you just want to punish Brian Williams?

Anonymous said...

Lying is a human trait. We ALL lie at one time or another. We lie to children (i.e: Santa Claus); We lie when we call in sick, to take a day off. We even have different categories, such as white lies, etc. He who has never lied cast the first stone.

Anonymous said...

Last anon agreed he who has not sinned can cast the first stone. That said there are degrees and those entrusted with our health and safety as well as those paid to provide us with info should be held to a higher standard.

cheap crap from china said...

Liberals lie, conservatives lie, Fox News has the most proficient liars,politicians lie, cheating spouses lie, priests lie, ministers lie, Popes lie, children lie, adults lied, teachers lie - NONE in this world of miserable wretches has the moral high ground, so shut up about it and let's move on.

Anonymous said...

Let's not let this post go into the archiles without saying NBC'S OWN FAMILY put the wammy on family member with a 6 mos suspension and no pay. Nuff said
"Good Night Sweetheart, It's time to go"