Anchors have become the brand, readers, for stories that other producers and reporters uncover. The problem with Brian Williams is that he is a storyteller. The ability to tell a story is very important in every reporter and writer's life. But, Williams did not have the background in reporting and writing to temper his tall tales.
Last week, the news profession lost three of its leading lights -- Bob Simon and David Carr to sudden and unexpected death and Brian Williams to a six-month suspension. In our shock and sadness we are drawn to ask ourselves some serious questions about the state of the news media today.
You have landed in a huge, messy puddle of your own making. You are a champion of independent, fair, reliable journalism at its best in a moment in our country's history when that tradition, which you and I both love and support, is wobbling.
These hosts are under persistent pressure, fueled by the necessary narcissism and vast salaries, to promote themselves as world-historical personalities -- making themselves players in great events, albeit leavened by (a stagey) self-deprecation.
Wouldn't we be a gentler, more educative culture if, instead of wallowing in Williams' shame, we treated it as an opportunity for all of us to discuss and examine the nature of the humanity we have in common?
At the risk of stating the obvious, we're all the sum total of our experiences and those experiences make us who we are. Later on, you cannot relive your life to make it more interesting.
Whatever the case, Brian Williams' downfall is symptomatic of our culture. No doubt Williams felt compelled to spiff up his newscasts.
Like it or not, lying serves an important function. It's the glue that holds society together. It sustains careers, keeps marriages intact, fuels wars, sells billions of dollars of goods, and spares the more sensitive among us the devastating hurt that often accompanies the awful truth.
Stewart took the reins of The Daily Show as a goofy parody of local news, and turned it into something smart, influential and useful. It transcended mere entertainment. And it has done its job.
We hear a lot about "teaching moments" and "life lessons," but do we really know them when we see them? By honoring our heroes and promulgating their brave stories, we can be reminded of the ancient Greek's definition of "citizen."
Gone are the days of Cronkite, Rather, Brokaw, Jennings, Sawyer, and now Williams. Mark your calendars: Tuesday, February 10, 2015, ended the era of the celebrity, legacy news anchor.
A part of my daily routine has been shattered from the most unlikely of sources - Brian Williams himself. There was a word I habitually associated with the renowned news anchor in his beautifully tailored suits, coiffed hair, and signature therapeutic voice - classy.
The reaction to Brian Williams's misstatements is striking considering the relatively muted response to the recent revelation that President Obama lied during the 2008 campaign regarding his position on same-sex marriage.
It would seem that the fall of Brian Williams is a tragic tale of style over substance. Ego and the temptation to embellish for talk show chit-chat won out over the simple truth. And with really nothing to be gained by tales of RPGs and a floating body. But everything to be lost. Especially trust.