Should Brian Williams be fired?

Brian Williams - NBC News

Brian Williams – NBC News

Brian Williams should resign his position as Anchor and Managing Editor of NBC Nightly News. He has been unquestionably exposed telling untruths about being aboard a helicopter struck by a rocket-propelled grenade during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The question of firing him should not even be a matter of debate for NBC executives, especially if one assumes that Williams cares for the good of NBC News.  He should relieve them of that decision, and simply resign.

Given the length and nature of his relationship with NBC, it is a reasonable assumption that he cares about the organization.

There is also little doubt that there are still those at NBC who care a great deal for Williams. In a recent memo concerning the Brian Williams controversy, Deborah Turness, president of NBC News, referred to the organization as a close-knit family.

It is fantastic that the atmosphere in the NBC news division feels like that of a close-knit family; however, they are a news organization and not a family.

Turness did acknowledge the seriousness of Williams’ ethical failure when she announced his six-month suspension.

“…This was wrong and completely inappropriate for someone in Brian’s position.

In addition, we have concerns about comments that occurred outside NBC News while Brian was talking about his experiences in the field.

As Managing Editor and Anchor of Nightly News, Brian has a responsibility to be truthful and to uphold the high standards of the news division at all times.”

This leaves little doubt that she fully understands the breech in trust this represents, but she goes on to explain.

“…We felt it would have been wrong to disregard the good work Brian has done and the special relationship he has forged with our viewers over 22 years…”

It is here that a failure in judgment occurs for Turness and the other executives at NBC; they are not handing out punishment to an adolescent family member, but to a news editor and anchor who committed a firing offence.

Williams should have tendered his resignation, leaving them to deal with rebuilding the trust of their viewers. But now the organization faces a lengthy investigation, and even future embarrassment as the saga will be drawn out over the course of six months.

The news media is like any other human endeavor, it is inherently flawed. We humans sometimes tell lies, we sometimes hold personal agendas over the well-being of our fellow humans, and sometimes we simply fail miserably.

New York Times blogger, Tara Parker-Pope, recently posted that,

“The fallibility and the malleability of the human memory is at the center of a national controversy involving Brian Williams, the “NBC Nightly News” anchor.”

While one can certainly acknowledge the fallibility of the human condition, it is preposterous when Parker-Pope goes on to suggest Williams is a victim of false memory, or that he shouldn’t be held to a higher standard.

We are not talking about a drunken uncle at the VFW Hall embellishing his battlefield exploits; we are talking about the Managing Editor of NBC Nightly News.

When humans band together to create institutions, we are at our most brilliant, we accomplish our greatest achievements, and we manage to mitigate our personal flaws by relying on the strength of the institution.

Brain Williams should hold himself accountable and resign; if not, NBC leadership needs to hold him accountable to the standards of the organization, and fire him.