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Journalists caught during epic fails
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One of the hip things today's kids like to do is post online videos of themselves failing miserably. To use the proper teen lingo, it's called an epic fail.
You can google "epic fail" and watch endless videos of things gone horribly wrong. A guy trying to stand on the handlebars of his bicycle will plow teeth first into a fence. An unsuspecting farmer walking too close to a bull will suddenly get trampled.
Oh, the hilarity. And thanks to the wonders of cellphones, we are now able to capture this great footage for the world to see.
All this makes me feel just a little bit slighted. Growing up, I never had the luxury of having any of my trampoline disasters or tree-climbing mishaps go viral. I was deprived.
I bring all this up because I can't help but think about epic fails when it comes to members of our broadcasting community. NBC News anchor Brian Williams and Fox News talk show host Bill O'Reilly have both had highly publicized epic fails when it comes to balancing on the high wire of truth. The two have fallen flat on their faces.
Many of us are familiar with their stories. Williams received a six-month suspension -- without pay -- for embellishing his war zone experiences. He claimed while covering the war in Iraq, the helicopter in which he was a passenger was forced to land after being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. It turns out another helicopter was hit, not his.
For O'Reilly, he made the claim he provided coverage from the actual Falklands war zone when Britain and Argentina were fighting. However, it appears O'Reilly got no closer than about 1,200 miles away and has since tried to minimize his original claim by saying he meant he covered the war in general, not from the Falkland Islands.
In the overall scheme of things, the fabricated stories of Williams and O'Reilly seem pretty insignificant. People lie all the time. Some of our top national leaders have been caught in many a lie and been allowed to easily sidestep the issue by saying they "misspoke."
No suspension. No lost salary.
But journalists are held to much higher standards, and rightfully so. I say this knowing O'Reilly is more of an inflammatory entertainer than a true journalist.
When people pick up a newspaper or watch the evening news, they should have the expectation that the information they are receiving is accurate. It's what separates legitimate news organizations from, say, Facebook.
I believe Brian Williams and Bill O'Reilly should be held to lofty standards of integrity when they report a story. If that report is knowingly false, they should pay the consequences.
In today's terms, Williams and O'Reilly were caught on tape in the middle of epic fails. Unfortunately, epic fails aren't quite as cool once you grow up.
Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.