But let there be no doubt, fellow media sorts: The rest of the country hates us. Out of all the takeaways from the ongoing Brian Williams scandal, that might be the key one to hold onto. We media types look at Williams’ untruths about his experiences and are taken aback by the aberration—but the rest of the country just sees further confirmation of what they already believed: Of course he’s lying. They’re always lying.
America loves when journalists get taken down. It confirms everything they already believe.
Certainly, Williams’ story is one of media schadenfreude, which is, after all, half the point of our business. The scrum around Williams has been a joyful spectacle—one to which Tom Brokaw, by not offering a word in defense of his successor, seems to have given his tacit approval. In the media, we eat our own for sport. Still: Williams is the most important architect of his own fate, regardless of the scope of whatever lies he may or may not have told. In an age in which few attach any particular status or reverence for the network anchor position—outside of the people who want that position—Williams has been a particularly aggressive myth-maker for the notion of a modern-day Cronkite figure. (Even if Walter Cronkite’s power and influence is its own media-created overstatement of the facts.)