Brian Williams and the “news”

For people in the “news” business, like Brian Williams, reality is fungible. Reality is whatever they say it is. While they purport to report the facts, these “facts” are merely their take on the events they see. They are paid to bring a viewer or listener into the story. That story, in and of itself, may be big or small, but the flourishes that bring it to life are those of the narrator. That Brian Williams, whose job it is to do just that, misreported his own life is wholly understandable. It is an occupational hazard. After a life time in news-reporting, his purpose and role is to embellish on simple facts and events and create a story. That he should do that with his own personal story should not be a surprise. It is not ethical, but it is an understandable mistake and fault in a world of make-believe.

When he made these “mistakes” on his own life events, he was merely in “reporter-mode”. He was on a narrative roll, and he just “heightened” the story a bit for the necessary effect to bring the story home. A lie, a fabrication, yes, but a forgivable moment of habit. He is in the business of story-telling. News consists of very little fact.

Reporting the news is theater. In the 24hour news cycle, everything becomes mundane. All stories, even murder and mayhem, must be punched up! A 30 minute newscast is as structured and created as a one-act play. A producer and writers create a beginning, middle and end that then the “actors” such as Brian enact.

An event happens. It is simple and true. But the very second, someone begins to tell you about it, it increasingly becomes fiction and theater the longer the tale is told. It is embellishment and surmise. Brian just fell into reporter mode. Cut him a little slack. He just lost sight, for a moment, of the difference between fact and fiction. But that blurred border is exactly where he lives everyday. He lives in lifeastheater.

We call it the Evening News.

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3 thoughts on “Brian Williams and the “news”

  1. “But the very second, someone begins to tell you about it, it increasingly becomes fiction and theater the longer the tale is told. ” Your line here really exonerates Brian Williams. It’s a great and true line which is the basis of all reporting, storytelling, fiction, art, culture. You name it. Obviously, news reporting is not a court of law and even there we know the “truth” is sometimes woven from falsehoods. The topic of this post could be a throwaway. I imagine you watching the news or reading about it and wondering if it’s worth your time. What you’re doing here, I think, is showing how a script/story is written and then how it lives on. It lives on by the repeated telling of it and is subject to revision as required to keep the storyteller and the audience engaged. Therefore, and please correct me, our scripts are not static. Can’t be. But, perhaps, always angling into deeper fictions unless we awake. Thank you for another enlightening post!

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    1. Thanks again, Sam, for responding to my post with the usual insights that lift its thoughts to an even higher level. Your vision always expands mine. The concept of “news” and the BW event, cuts to the very heart of my central thesis of “scripts” and theater in our daily lives. His hubris is the fatal flaw that we all face….believing our own scripts even when they fly in the face of reality. All of us as private citizens, do it all the time. But his is a tragic moment….for a “factual” newscaster, the flaw becomes fatal.

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  2. Yes, thank you for your reply! The more self-related the flaw, the greater the tragedy. Had Williams made an error on a report that did not relate to himself, he could have simply made the correction on air without much ado. The New York Times routinely post corrections. That the story embellished or distorted his own role in the report, where his personal “script” went haywire, is the “flaw” you clearly point out. Did he really believe it? What happened to him to report it as he did? It’s a personal flaw, like my own, but played ot on such a large scale.

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