February 12, 2015

Brian Williams Had a Choice

Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

Someone once said my memory and the truth are close relatives but not identical twins. In recent days news anchor Brian Williams has experienced the truth in this statement. Unfortunately for Brian Williams so much of what he has said in the last 2 or 3 decades has been documented in one way or another. With the status of journalist, anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News since 2004, Williams has a certain credibility factor that has been damaged by this. He now finds himself with a 6 month suspension and a credibility factor which may be hard to overcome.

In recent years he has been seen on various late night talk shows and the clips taken from those shows have been used to show variations on specific stories. The problem with these settings for a person who depends on having integrity in their business is the environment they are in is pretty much anything goes. The anything for a laugh mentality can get you in trouble when you have a certain image to maintain. Although funny I would have a hard time seeing Walter Cronkite, considered to be a father figure, doing some of these things.

Fortunately for writers we have something called fiction that allows for mistakes, misstatements or even lies. If you want to write about historic events we have historical fiction. Williams, in several cases, was writing himself into history as he reported it. But it was found that some of the stories were indeed close relatives but not identical twins. No matter, in the true history of things it amounts to little. The unnecessary placement of himself in the story and the facts that were shown not to be facts has done a great deal of damage to his integrity.

It must be said that we as writers can hide behind many fabricated events. We can become heroes, villains, benefactors and thieves. We can be enjoyed in our fabricated world by ourselves and others. We may even be recognized for the wonderful fantasy we present. And the amazing thing is we would seldom be condemned for the lies unless they are taken from others in an attempt to make our own. Williams’ choice could easily be to use that great imagination he has to write stories based on his travels as he covered the history making news of our world. I probably would want to read that.           

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