NBC Nightly News
anchor and managing editor Brian Williams told a room full of journalists
Thursday (March 4) that news organizations need to invest in the kind of real
reporting that separates facts from information, and the public should be
willing to pay for it.
Williams was in Washington
to receive the Len Zeidenberg First Amendment award from the Radio Television
Digital News Foundation.
He used as an example of the importance of separating the difference
between two stories that he said greeted him as he got off the train in
Washington and prepared to do the news from NBC's bureau there. One story,
presented as an online fact, was that Chief Justice John Roberts was
resigning. NBC checked it out and he wasn't. The Website had to change its
story, but not, ironically, before a law professor conducting a Georgetown seminar
about unsourced reporting reported that the chief justice was going to resign.
Within minutes it had been Tweeted to the wider world, he said. The other story
was about a shooting at a Pentagon metro station that proved to be true.
Both were information, he said, but only one of them was
news that actually happened. "Information is easy," he said.
"Facts are very tough. They're best when they are right. And we've got to
be right every day and every night."
Williams suggested that that journalism's economic model
should stem from that adherence to the truth. "Facts should be worth
Williams said that not only are a lot of people angry at the
media, but a lot of people want to be the media. He said that was fine, but
distinguished it from the professional journalists in the room, which included
CBS Radio reporter Cami McCormick, injured in Afghanistan last year. "A lot
of us in this room have been willing to give our lives for the First Amendment
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