Opinion

Media must stay fact-focused to maintain trust

The media industry suffered major setbacks last week.

On one end, acclaimed journalists David Carr from The New York Times and Bob Simon from “60 Minutes” passed away. But at the center of these real tragedies, NBC suspended “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams when he apologized on air for embellishing his experiences reporting the Iraq War in 2003.

Williams’ apology sparked a firestorm of criticism. Comedian Jon Stewart, who also announced he will leave “The Daily Show,” joked that Williams caught a case of “infotainment confusion syndrome.”

Though a bit exaggerated, Stewart’s point makes clear that Williams may have allowed his public persona to affect his ability to report the news. He is one example of the worrisome relationship between news and entertainment that affects the public’s perception of the media.

The public’s distrust of mass media outlets continues to grow. The latest Gallup poll on this subject reported that 40 percent of Americans had complete faith in the media, while 60 percent had the opposite perspective.

Williams is also not the first and certainly won’t be the last to make this kind of mistake. He joins the same club as CBS News anchor Dan Rather and CNN’s John King – journalists who both made huge blunders in covering significant stories involving George W. Bush and the Boston Marathon, respectively.

We do not expect journalists to be perfect – they are humans, too. In fact, we were shocked and disappointed to hear that Williams had lied about his involvement in high-profile stories. He had established himself as one of the most credible and personable reporters.

Lester Holt said it best in his first newscast after replacing Brian, “Brian is a member of our family but so are you, our viewers, and we will work every night to be worthy of your trust.”

For Williams, his pursuit of charisma and charm may have come at the expense of his credibility. He will have to dedicate the rest of his career to making a comeback and once again placing himself in the public’s trust.

Nevertheless, the network deserves part of the blame for not addressing the situation.

NBC was blissfully ignorant to Williams’ different versions of the same story. And, even when they were made aware by a public apology, they only decided to take action after Williams apologized on air. Whether or not NBC turned a blind eye to  its star anchor, the network should be held accountable for not immediately addressing the situation.

NBC should have reacted the way CBS did when they were faced with a similar situation with Rather. In 2004, both the anchor and the network’s president, Andrew Heyward, issued an apology for relying on unverified documents claiming that President Bush received favorable treatment in the National Guard.

Major news outlets should prevent their anchors from becoming too recognizable of a figure. They should also stay away from allowing their anchors too much autonomy. Likewise, the anchors should remain level headed and avoid any kind of attention that undermines what should be their sole mission: to report the news accurately and fairly.

We believe Williams will get his second chance and return repentant for his actions. Let’s hope all news networks heed his example and prevent this from happening in the future.

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.

February 18, 2015

Reporters

Editorial Board

The Miami Hurricane


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

The University of Miami spring game will not be televised or streamed live on the Internet at noon S ...

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Thursday: ▪ Who were UM’s standouts this spring, heading into Sa ...

As the Miami Hurricanes have spent the spring trying to find answers to question after question on o ...

Navaughn Donaldson knew one thing mattered above all when he was forced to start playing center ahea ...

This spring hasn’t been easy for Miami redshirt sophomore Tate Martell, the former Ohio State quarte ...

Yvette Soler, B.M. ’96, better known as Tigrilla Gardenia, connects her music engineering background ...

Preservation Week, from April 21 to April 27, is focused on highlighting the importance of learning ...

There are numerous ways to connect with the University of Miami during the two-day tech conference o ...

A symbol of both French heritage and Catholicism, Paris’ 850-year-old gothic cathedral was gutted by ...

The Division of Student Affairs hosted a reception to present campus-wide awards and scholarships to ...

The fifth-seeded and No. 21-ranked Miami women's tennis team knocked off fourth-seeded and nint ...

Miami was leading, 10-3, when umpires suspended play at 7 p.m. on Friday. ...

Miami Athletics has become one of the leaders nationally in developing its sports psychology departm ...

No. 42 Adria Soriano Barrera collects top-25 victory against No. 21 Alexis Galarneau ...

Check out the UM Department of Athletics' e-magazine for April. ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.