Things a war correspondent should never say

I recall once writing a profile for this paper of CBS cameraman Keith Kay. His job for years in Vietnam was to stand up and film combat—while reporters were hiding in holes, taking notes. It took weeks of effort to pry out of Keith a few of his many, many combat experiences, and even then he was embarrassed to be written about.

The reasons for this rather old-fashioned modesty are pretty obvious. The correspondent retelling war stories surely knows that fellow correspondents had faced the same dangers or worse. More important, they knew that the GIs or Marines they were on patrol with or with whom they were sharing an outpost faced these and greater dangers every day. The troops obviously were the story; not the reporter. To brag about one’s own little brush with danger was unseemly; it was simply bad form.

So, what led Mr. Williams, by most accounts a nice fellow, to telling and retelling his own little war story—with or without embellishment—to any TV talk-show host who invited him to do so? In part, Mr. Williams is flowing with the unhappy tide of modern media in which journalists have become celebrities, promoting their own personal brands through multiple outlets and especially on ubiquitous TV talk shows.