Brian Williams, Generation Lie, and The Age of the Laughingstock Journalists

Brian Williams made his return to news this past week.

And, if I’m being completely honest, the whole situation still really bothers me.

As a journalist, it is OK to make mistakes once in a while, especially in the heat of the moment. Say you’re in the middle of a riot, an active war zone, a chaotic tragedy, or a natural disaster. Mistakes and incorrect facts are bound to happen. Emotions breaking through or naïveté while you’re still learning the ropes are both understandable. We are all only human.

But, to make up multiple stories over the course of a decade after a long illustrious career as a trusted newsman?

That’s plain wrong.

I think I’m just getting sick of the people in this world that seems to be comfortable with zero accountability.

We live in a time where honest, nice, hardworking people are often ignored or torn down.

But, people who lie and cheat and promote dangerous lifestyles and messages are glorified.

Don’t have a good singing voice?

No worry you can make millions with auto-tune.

Don’t like your appearance? Have a boring life with nothing exciting going on?

Develop an entire fake persona online. Put on 20 pounds of make-up and take filtered selfies. Create artistic Instagram photos that crop out the ugly realities of life around you.

Want to run for office?

Minimize your wrongs. Make false promises. Say woefully ignorant statements. Go any which way the wind blows just to get votes.

Want to have a best-selling autobiography?

Make things up for shock value and fudge the truth.

Want to be a successful actor or musician, but you have a storied past full of arrests and run-ins with the law?

Have a PR team concoct a sincere apology and fantastic comeback for you. And if you slip up again, don’t worry. They’ll pay someone to cover it up.

The world seems so backwards sometimes.

What happened with Brian Williams is just one of the countless cases where journalists have said false truths or established a bias in order to promote their own agenda.

Just watch the numerous reporters or political commentators, who call themselves “journalists,” on Fox News, MSNBC, or CNN. Even the local news stations in my hometown have fallen prey to writing one-sided pieces and letting partisan attitudes seep into their work.

All of this faulty journalism has, unfortunately, damaged the integrity of the news industry, whereby anyone who says that they have anything to do with the field is immediately mocked and stereotyped, no matter how decent and hard-working they may be.

By continuing to give people who have lied and disgraced the profession a platform, we are saying to the world that it is acceptable.

We are proliferating a journalistic culture that is OK with sensationalized garbage and shoddy work that is loosely based on facts.

Not only this, but we’re preventing young would-be trusted journalists, who are rising up in the ranks, from getting a shot at their big break.

Personally, as an aspiring writer and journalist, if I had worked hard as a honest and trustworthy NBC newsperson and someone told me I couldn’t get my first real gig covering the Pope in America as a Breaking News Correspondent because Brian Williams was being given another shot, I would be upset.

How is it fair that someone who has told multiple lies and has lost the respect and credibility of a nation gets a second chance when there are probably dozens of new worthy candidates for the job?

Hank Green once begged the question, “How does a democracy function with no credible system for informing its citizens?”

And I have to agree.

When you have journalists and even whole news networks flagrantly disobeying the ethics of journalism and the responsibility of the job, you discredit the entire field.

Without honest, unbiased gatekeepers of news dissemination, how can we educate ourselves on the issues and stories of the day?

Without an educated and informed public, how can we properly vote on issues and the candidates for political office or fight injustices and problems in our world?

The press plays a very large and important role in our government and in our lives.

It is essential that the media functions properly and works to make sure that everything they do is in the best interest of the public.

When I look at the news industry today, I see a corrupt system with advertisements disguised as articles and news reports glossed over with twisted facts or biased commentary. I see a few, who are working hard every day to divulge the truth and help the common good, being overshadowed by the many, who are reporting on bikini photos of Kate Hudson and Kanye West’s “run” for President.

And this just makes me wonder…

What happened?

What happened to journalists like Cronkite, Brinkley, Brokaw, Bernstein, and Woodward?

What happened to real news?

When did the news industry revert back to the days of muckraking and yellow journalism in the late-1800s and early-1900s?

Is a good journalist a dying concept?

How do we get to a place where news and journalism can be trusted and respected?