The once beloved and trusted journalist Brian Williams has fallen from grace—and that has been the talk of Emerson’s Journalism Department ever since the NBC Nightly News anchor admitted February 4 that his claim of being inside a helicopter hit by enemy fire in Iraq in 2003 was false. Since then, aspects of his reporting have been called into question.
On February 7, Williams announced that he was taking himself off the air to deal with the fallout, but by February 10, Williams learned he was suspended from NBC for six months without pay.
“He should lose his job,” said Carole Simpson, the former weekend anchor of ABC World News Tonight who now serves as senior leader-in-residence in Emerson’s Journalism Department. In a February 6 interview with Emerson College Today, she said, “All a journalist has is trust. He is not worthy to wear the crown of NBC.”
Here is what some Emerson Journalism students think about the Brian Williams debacle:
Ashlyn Lillibridge '15 (Photo by Tessa Roy '16)
Ashlyn Lillibridge ’15: “I appreciate his honesty about the incident. It’s really respectable that he actually admitted what he did and admitted that it was wrong. However, I don’t think a six-month suspension is fair punishment. The fact that he came out and spoke publicly about it shows he has true journalistic integrity. Six months is a really long time. But I do get that people are upset about it. Maybe he can get a job somewhere else. If he wanted to stay in television but doesn’t feel he deserves to be a journalist anymore, he could maybe do a talk show.”
David Weiner '16 (Photo by Tessa Roy '16)
David Weiner ’16: “If you tell that big a lie and get caught, you lose all trust and credibility. Especially in the world of journalism. Trust is everything. Without trust, you can’t have credibility and without credibility, you’re not much of a journalist. I think the suspension was appropriate. He’ll probably lay low for a long time. If he were to come back, it would tarnish his reputation even more. It would ruin anything he may have established before this happened.”
Charlie Greenwald '16 (Photo by Tessa Roy '16)
Charlie Greenwald ’16: “If Brian Williams had lied about anything else, he would have apologized, been forgiven, and he probably would have retained his job without being suspended for six months. But the one thing you cannot do in this country is steal honor from a veteran and claim it as your own. That is the ultimate sin. Add that to the fact he’s the most trusted man in news. It makes perfect sense that people would be enraged. As for the suspension… [NBC] should have gotten on it as soon as it came out and fired or suspended him immediately. There are more trustworthy people like Scott Pelley and Lester Holt who would be better as the face of NBC News.”
Paige Solomon '16 (Photo by Tessa Roy '16)
Paige Solomon ’16: “I think the suspension was rightfully enforced. On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart brought up two incidents where Williams told the story differently. I think he needs to be held accountable for this and that NBC is doing the right thing. I just wish they had gotten around to doing it sooner. I don’t know if he will be able to come back from this considering they’re also looking into other stories he did that he might have lied about too.”