What Brian Williams' False Claims Say About Accountability and Credibility in Journalism

Feb 12, 2015

Credit Steve Rhodes / Flickr

While NBC has suspended anchor Brian Williams for six months for misleading the public about his experiences covering the Iraq war, he could still return to the Nightly News desk later this year, but should he?  

Jeff Ritter, Chair of Communications, Media and Technology at La Roche College, and journalist Carmen Gentile, who has covered conflicts and unrest in the Middle East, offer their perspectives on media, journalistic practice and public esteem.

Gentile, who was hit with a rocket propelled grenade while he was covering conflict in Afghanistan, admits that he feels “enraged” with Williams for his dishonesty, and he has articulated his anger in a recent op-ed. Williams, after all, falsely claimed to have experienced precisely what Gentile actually did experience: being hit with an ordnance while covering war.

“I’m glad he got caught, and I hope he never works again,” Gentile says.

Ritter says that Williams’ journalistic misdeeds should be taken seriously, but he feels that in the troubled world of network news, his falsification will probably be little more than a bump in the road for a business that badly needs revenues and that banks on star power. NBC still has a substantial investment in Williams, Ritter says, and as long as he retains even some credibility, he will likely have a career in the news media.

“Brian Williams is the necessary evil of the entire circus of confusion that’s TV news today,” Ritter argues.