The Brian Williams’ memory-confusion story has been all over the media this week, except for the three broadcast television networks; why am I not surprised. Anchors and journalists on Fox News have pointed out the similarities between Rather’s coverage of President George W. Bush’s Texas National Guard service story and Williams’ I-was-almost shot down story. They both were fabricated.
To my mind the implications of the Williams’ story goes far beyond one news anchor’s credibility. As in the case of Dan Rather it goes to the mainstream media’s credibility altogether. Those of us who watch Fox News routinely hear about what stories ABC, CBS and NBC don’t cover. Occasionally, we here about the stories they mis-report. I have long contended that the mis-reporting is far more widespread that many believe.
When I was much younger I was an avid watcher of “60 Minutes” on CBS. For years I watch the program and accepted what they reported as fact. Rarely did they report on stories that I had first hand knowledge of. As I got older, served int the military, went to Vietnam and served in the Department of Defense, however, I began to notice that when they did report on a story that I had first hand knowledge of, they got it terribly wrong. “How can I trust them to report honestly on stories I don’t know much about when the grossly mis-report stories I know a lot about?” I stopped watching “60 Minutes” because the program no longer was credible.
I no longer watch any of the three network news broadcasts for the same reason. Like so many others I get my news from Fox, the Internet and other sources I trust. The three networks have lost much of the large viewership they once had, still a great many people watch them and accept what they tell them.
Will the revelations of Brian Williams further damage network news. I believe it will, but not dramatically and not quickly. Old habits are hard to break. People will argue that Williams transgression was personal aggrandisement and doesn’t affect the way he reports the news. I question that assumption. Slowly but surely the so-called main stream media is becoming just other alternative media.