Staff Editorial: Ethical Journalism

Brian Williams was a trusted journalist employed by NBC for over a decade. After the media became aware of a discrepancy in his recent comments regarding his 2003 coverage of the war in Iraq, he lost all credibility. Where his original report mentioned a helicopter that was hit by groundfire traveling about an hour ahead of his aircraft, he recently recounted a story that gave people the impression that it was infact the aircraft that he was traveling in that was hit.

In recent weeks, nearly the entire country has been picking apart every detail Williams has ever reported. One example of this is his coverage of Hurricane Katrina in 2006 where he reported he saw a body float past him in the floodwaters of the French Quarter. However, the French Quarter only received inches of flooding, rather than the feet of flooding other areas of Louisiana received, which caused people to question his statement. Additionally, he made claims that he became sick with dysentery from accidentally ingesting floodwater and that his hotel was overrun with gangs. Is all or even any of that true? Maybe, maybe not.

Easily the most important rule of journalism is making sure you present facts and present them in a clear and credible manner. When such a renowned journalist makes such a big mistake like this, how can we not question other stories they have reported? Can NBC afford to keep someone as Managing Editor of their nightly news that either can’t or won’t get the facts right?

The sole purpose of journalism is to provide communities with accurate facts. The process that Williams used goes against the very objective of the career that he was supposedly an expert in. What does this mistrust mean for the future of the journalism profession?

Williams was caught in his lies, but this raises the question of how many other news sources contain falsities passed off as truths. This shows the importance of research, and not readily believing everything presented by the media. Double-check sources, compare and contrast stories, before forming your own opinion.

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