NBC News has suspended anchor Brian Williams for allegedly falsely reporting an event that occurred when he was reporting from Iraq in 2003. There are three interesting aspects:
First is that memories of traumatic events can be problematic. Former CBS reporter Kimberly Dozier who was wounded in Iraq came to Williams defense stating: “Memories under stress are plastic. And over time, when you look back, things that you thought you remembered really well, they start to get fuzzy around the edges.”
Second, the media piling-on Williams. From the snarky mean-girl Maureen Dowd to the cable channel talking heads and pundits. It’s unseemly. It’s unprofessional. They use rumor and innuendo rather than facts. It’s difficult to know the source of this schadenfreude. Is it envy? Is it resentment? Is it a desire to get their name in the news? Kicking people when they’re down says something of one’s character.
Third, it’s important to remember that while anchors started as reporters, they are very different jobs. It’s a career change. Anchors are rarely ace reporters, as ace reporters are so hard to find. Ace reporters want to report and not sit in an anchor’s chair. Anchors take stories from producers and either tell them or set them up for a reporter’s piece, whether they are in the studio or in the field. The reporter is suppose to do the fact checking.
Williams may have let us down, either on purpose or inadvertently; or not at all. What’s disappointing is seeing NBC News cave to the tabloid sharks.