In 2015, reporters are more than just trusted newsman relaying the events of the day. Looking above, you see the face of Brian Williams who to some is a famed reporter and others? A meme, a viral hit... or shockingly, a liar.
Walter Cronkite is widely regarded as one of the most trusted journalists of our time. As he broke the Kennedy assassination news on November 22, 1963, Cronkite responsibly anchored the CBS programming with what he knew, and nothing more. Even with urgency and the lack of credible information from sources, Cronkite remained calm and professional while delivering earth-shattering news to the public.
Now in 2015, reporters like Williams are celebrities, which is fun for a minute until there’s a false elaboration or distasteful joke. Unlike the Cronkite years, news consumers are often tuning in to see their favorite stars rather than responsible journalists.
Brian Williams, just weeks before the revelation of his irresponsible reporting, was celebrated on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon for anchoring 10 years at NBC Nightly News.
Realistically, Williams looks and acts like a celebrity. His handsome appearance, lovable banter, and Hollywood actress daughter all come together to create the perfect storm, not to mention the multiple mix tapes of his configured “rapping” that also contributed to his journalism demise.
Any student in an introductory journalism course in college knows that fabricating a story goes against all journalistic values. Even assuming facts about a story is a risky road to take and if proven wrong, can compromise an entire career.
Granted, Williams learned this as well during his sporadic years of education at three different colleges.
How does one find humility in their work when they’re idolized and thrown into an entertainment arena? It’s near impossible. The line between reporter and celebrity is so fine and so delicate that any rational individual would struggle to shy away from the fame and a $10 million salary.
Similarly and even more recently, Giuliana Rancic has taken responsibility for a joke made on a post-Oscars episode of Fashion Police. Even with entertainment news, should Rancic as a journalist, been cast as a host on Joan Rivers’ comedy show when it started in 2010? Did she fit in for any other reason besides her celebrity status and ability to lure in a young female audience?
At what point in a career does a celebrity and more significantly, a reporter, stop themselves from entering unfamiliar territory? Joan Rivers can host a comedy show, but should a so-called responsible and trustworthy reporter sign on for the gig? It’s risky and Rancic got away with the duality for five years.
Presently, Williams and Rancic are undergoing extreme scrutiny for their on-air catastrophes, yet still have an enormous amount of support... from both news watchers and entertainment fans.