Brian Williams: better storyteller than reporter


Brian Williams is back on television after a seven month absence.

Every week the editorial board reflects on a current issue in Our View. The position taken does not reflect the opinions of everyone on the Hilltop Views staff.

“NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams has been suspended for six months without pay for lying on his news reports.

Williams lied — or as NBC News President Deborah Turness calls it, “misrepresented” — about multiple events.

One story that Williams embellished was one where he said his helicopter was attacked while in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It turns out that was just one of many stories Williams misrepresented.

In truth, the helicopter in front of Williams was the one hit by enemy fire.

“I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another,” Williams said.

Williams lied to his audience several times. However, there is a bigger question: is Williams a journalist or an entertainer?

If he is a journalist, then he should be punished for lying. But if Williams is an entertainer, then his sole purpose is to tell the audience an entertaining story.

Williams probably saw himself more as entertainer. This correlates with his decisions to appear on show like “30 Rock” and “Saturday Night Live.” At one point Williams tried to convince NBC to give him “The Tonight Show” after Jay Leno retired.

There is one title that supersedes both journalist and entertainer, storyteller.

Williams was able to get millions of people to watch his show because of his abilities as a storyteller. However, these abilities ultimately brought him down.

Should a storyteller be punished for trying to make a story better?

The situation surrounding Williams seems to be one that the public created. With dwindling audiences, Williams had no choice but to somehow spice up his stories. Now, that does not give him a free pass.

Americans are bored with their news; they want something more. Williams tried giving Americans what they want, but it blew up in his face and he most likely will never return to the anchor desk.

Nightly news shows do not have the power they had in the ‘60s.

Americans had no choice but to watch one of three channels. Today, traditional anchors, like Williams, must fight the 24-hour news channels, comedians satirizing the news and whatever else is on cable or the Internet.

The idea of having a person tell you the news at the end of the day is an old way of thinking in the modern 24-hour news cycle.

There is no point in waiting until 5:30 p.m. to tell people the news when there is the Internet and the devices that can access it.

Maybe Williams has shown America that it is time to phase out the concept of a nightly news program. Nightly news only works on the local level.

What Americans need is someone who will report on the news the way it is, instead of a person who worries if he is entertaining or not. The way we do journalism is changing, but the basics of being truthful and honest will always remain the same.