OP-ED: A Wake-Up Call for Journalists Everywhere

Art by Patrick Driscoll

By Jennifer Johnson

Art by Patrick Driscoll
Art by Patrick Driscoll


Unless you have been living off the grid for the past month, you have probably heard about the scandal surrounding the managing editor of NBC news, Brian Williams. The veteran nightly news anchor has been exaggerating his involvement in situations that occurred while he was covering the war in Iraq – and possibly other stories as well from the past 10 years. We all are aware that journalists have been known to spin stories, but when you’re a highly respected national news anchor and are caught lying, people tend to get angry. It’s reported that NBC lost about 700,000 viewers after the scandal was unveiled.

Williams is on unpaid leave for the next 6 months. He could potentially lose his position and all of his credibility. It’s a shame when something like this happens. Not only does it damage an extremely successful career like his, but it also damages the name of journalism. His mistake is giving journalists everywhere a slap in the face.

As I mentioned above, we all know that he’s neither the first nor the last to be caught doing this, but nonetheless it’s still a shocking and concerning scandal. As an aspiring journalist, this gives me anxiety for the future. If someone like Williams feels the need to immerse himself into stories less than truthfully, is that his own personal issue, or an issue about staying afloat in an extremely competitive field?

We also question NBC’s fact-checking and the team that worked with him. Why is he only being called out now? Why wasn’t he corrected? Surely he wasn’t alone when this happened…someone else present at the time had to have known.

At what point do we risk calling out someone above us on the ladder?

Stories like these put the public on edge because we start to see how things really work, and it forces people to take action. Since Williams’ scandal, other stories have been springing up: Bill O’Reilly, host of the political commentary program “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox news, is being called out for exaggerating war-tales as well. The public laughs at these veteran journalists and the rest of us just shake our heads.

Satires and propaganda have been popping up, mimicking Williams’ elaborate stories by putting him in historical scenes – such as on the bus with Rosa Parks during her refusal to change seats. Things like these will never make me question my career path choice, but they certainly make it difficult and inspire me to work harder and keep an honorable and credible career. Honestly: is sounding like a hero for five minutes really worth being laughed at for the rest of your life?

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