Our View: Fabrication or Human Error?

KS Editors

Over the weekend, NBC News Anchor Brian Williams announced he would be stepping down temporarily because of inaccuracies in a 2003 news story involving an incident he allegedly experienced during the early stage of the Iraq war.

Journalism requires absolute accuracy in reporting. The facts, sources and events in a story must be accurate and as complete as can be at the time of publication. These factors combine to create credibility for not only the story but also for the journalist.

But journalism is as much a science as it is an art. There’s ample room for human error. To recall a situation incorrectly or to give a misheard quote can damage your credibility with not just your audience, but with your peers as well.

Journalists — from students at Kent State to professionals who have been working in the field for decades — are all capable of making mistakes. But there’s a line between falsifying information and making an honest mistake. The credibility of journalists is their lifeline. There’s always a correction, an inaccuracy or a misquote that can destroy your reputation. We believe that media consumers — including students and people reading this editorial — must hold journalists accountable, often to expectations that may never be reached.

Humans aren’t perfect. Neither are journalists nor is the news you read. That is why readers, listeners and viewers alike must be more aware of how the news they receive is created, shaped and delivered. It’s called being media literate, and it entails a certain level of trust placed in journalists of all media.

Yes, it is difficult seeing journalists resigning or leaving their careers due to their own mistakes or by their inaccuracies. But an entire career should not be completely defined by one mistake. Williams messed up. We all mess up. But we as media consumers must also know when to move on, when to trust the news, and when learn from the past.