Brian Williams, the NBC Nightly News anchor, is taking some heat for “misremembering” an event in Iraq that took place in 2003. According to his original version of events, he was aboard a helicopter that was downed by an RPG. Last week, he recanted that version only after several soldiers who were involved called into question Mr. Williams’ version of events.
He apologized for his false statement and NBC is now launching an internal investigation.
Aside from Mr. Williams’ character and credibility being called into question, some are questioning whether today’s media is more about storytelling and less about reporting the facts and truth. After all, isn’t it the “story” that grabs the attention of the viewer more than the details?
Do details matter? When the media gets it wrong on Veterans issues or events, Veterans notice.
For some Veterans, the details (aka “truth”) are incredibly important; for others, they are willing to provide grace and move past the issue if past actions outweigh the one or two moments of bad judgment.
Joe Davis, an Air Force Veteran who served his country for 24 plus years and then went into the non-profit sector, now serving as the national spokesman for Veterans of Foreign War, found Williams’ embellishment “reprehensible,” and further stated “that he [Williams] has no idea what “direct fire” means.”
Younger Veterans, like Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America) seemed a bit more forgiving. “Persecuting him over this mistake will do little to help our veterans and service members. I am confident that in years ahead, Brian will continue to dedicate himself to our vets — as he always has — and inspire others to do the same.”
Generational differences? Condemnation vs. Grace? There are so many directions one can go with this.
But why is this Williams’ issue more front page than the over-hyped myth that most Veterans suffer from PTSD? (Most Veterans don’t suffer from PTSD.) Or why is the 22 veteran suicides a day a backseat issue to Mr. Williams’ “misremembering” how events took place a dozen years ago?
A credible storyteller matters in reporting – and there is little doubt that consequences will be administered. But let’s focus on real issues when it comes to Veterans and their families…like what happens after the homecoming hugs.
Bottom line: the details typically matter to those personally involved. Sure, the Williams’ incident raises some eyebrows – and there should be consequences for his admitted actions – but does this incident warrant a Scarlet Letter around his neck? I’m rather certain this incident is a great reminder to all journalists to “stay true to the facts.”
Oh. One last note: Mr. Williams is also being questioned for a story he reported during the Katrina natural disaster that he may have also embellished. My dad told me that if I tell the truth in life I won’t have to remember what I said when I’m questioned. Good thing because my memory seems to be slipping – but nonetheless, I’m thinking I should just confess now to all my dirty laundry so I don’t become tomorrow’s news story.
- Brian Williams’ apology draws mixed reviews from mission vets
- NBC’s Brian Williams recants Iraq story after soldiers protest