By S. MOLLY DOMINICK
If I was reporting even a low-profile story in my town and fabricated a piece of information, I would be fired. For that matter, if I’m on the job under any circumstances and I fabricate information, I better start packing up my things. It’s a gross violation of the journalistic code, no questions asked.
But for some reason, when NBC anchor Brian Williams does it — with multiple instances of the crime, and in high-profile situations to boot — the network doesn’t know what to do with him.
He hasn’t been fired, yet. Instead, he’s been suspended for six months without pay, and that suspension was only announced once the popular anchor’s television ratings dropped following the outbreak of scandal.
The decisions made regarding Williams’ job, as well as the timeline of those decisions, are revealing. What separates me and Brian Williams (other than his wry smile, iconic silvery slicked-back hair and practically everything else) comes down to clout, and thus, money. Being the anchor of the number one evening news program, this even separates him from other big name anchors. And that appears to be why he’s receiving special, or lenient, treatment.
But there should be no room for special treatment regarding matters of journalistic integrity.
In this same vein, the coverage of the Williams scandal is also disproportionate. With article after article speculating the fate of his job, it is easy to forget that while in that helicopter in Iraq and while reporting on Hurricane Katrina, Williams was not alone. He was with a news team. People witnessed the truth, and their silence contributed to the cover-up for years until the scandal only recently broke.
Their crimes were just as severe as those of Williams, yet I’ve heard next to nothing about the state of those jobs. Since they aren’t the big name money-makers for NBC, it seems the media don’t regard their company-wide breach in integrity as too important, judging from the amount of media coverage they’ve received since the scandal.
As a journalist-hopeful, it’s troubling that our priorities are so out of line.