Brian Williams

Anchorman Brian Williams has been suspended for six months. Photo: Monica Schipper / 2014 Getty Images

 

Debra J. Saunders

Opinion
By Debra J. Saunders
Updated 9:00 pm, Wednesday, February 11, 2015

I work on a treadmill of shameless self-promotion. Most mornings, I’ve tweeted before 6 a.m. When I’m not working on my column, I’m often blogging, posting on Facebook, jabbering on the radio (less often on TV), or speaking at a venue like the Commonwealth Club.

I don’t want to bore anyone. I want people to like me — well, some people. So while I know that NBC News anchor Brian Williams had to take a leave of absence for six months — perhaps for good — to atone for concocting tall tales dirty with self-puffery, I also suspect that the handsome face of NBC News was under tremendous pressure to inflate his working persona. In 2015, it’s as important that top TV newscasters are a good story as that they report good stories. Maybe more important, as Williams showed courage in putting himself in a war zone.

Williams’ Chinook Down incident in Iraq occurred with other members of the network’s news team. Thus Williams could not self-aggrandize without the consent — perhaps grudging consent — of his colleagues and the knowledge of higher-ups.

Ditto Williams’ fantastic claims, told to historian Douglas Brinkley, about his coverage of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Washington Post handily debunked Williams’ account of armed gangs breaking into his hotel (the Ritz-Carlton) in New Orleans, where he saw a corpse floating on a French Quarter street and contracted dysentery. Witnesses say it’s all fiction.

Williams got caught in a changing media business. Journalists always had to pitch stories to their editors. Now, in the Internet age, they have to sell editors and everyone else. You have to draw “eyeballs.” Social media is a battlefield on which newsies have to scream to stand out.

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