Tuesday, February 10, 2015

It's What You Expect

I will be the first to admit that we do a lot of "boring news" here on WOSH.  City Council and School Board meetings, court cases, special events going on around the area are our bread and butter.  Occasionally we have something "exciting" like a fire, a big crash on Highway 41 or an elected official breaking the law to "spice things up"--but those are thankfully rare.

But those at the upper levels of the media can't have such "boring" newscasts.  People don't tune in to hear about Congress passing such-and-such bill or a certain world leader coming to Washington to talk about free trade.  In today's everyone has a video camera on their phone, I need to see the footage of everything and all events are a "disaster" or a "crisis" news cycle, you need to have something sensational or shocking for the viewers every minute of the day or you are going to have no ratings.

And that is how Brian Williams finds himself likely out of a job as anchor of the NBC Nightly News.  Williams is under fire for lying about being under fire while flying with Marines in Iraq during an "assignment" about seven years ago.  Debate continues as to whether it was another chopper in the same convoy that was fired upon or if Williams just made up the whole thing in a dream as he slept on the helicopter--but pretty much everyone agrees that his original and subsequent versions of the story are not accurate.

And for Williams that put him in a very difficult spot.  Here he is in the field and "unfortunately" nothing happened--which likely was the norm and not the exception for the military personnel involved.  But NBC didn't need a "Brian Williams is flying around doing nothing in Iraq" story for the Nightly News that evening.  They needed a "Brian Williams dodges bullets and rocket propelled grenades to bring you this story from Iraq" story--probably because ABC or Fox News had an embedded reporter "lucky enough" to have come under actual fire that day or the day before and NBC was in danger of falling behind in the "crisis coverage race".  So Williams figured that if one of the choppers in the sortie did come under fire that day--he would just "transfer" himself to that unit and suddenly you have a top of the newscast "brush with death story" that the guys actually there with him weren't going to see anyway to call him out on.

That still doesn't excuse what Brian Williams did--or the embarrassing way that both he and NBC are trying to explain it away now.  But if we were willing to accept a little more "boring news"--which actually has a much greater impact on our day-to-day lives anyway--we wouldn't have so many of our "trusted reporters" having to apologize for violating that trust.

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