Whom Can We Trust?

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams has been caught in some blatant lies. His on-air apology didn't seem to be enough. More examples of truth-stretching and mis-remembering are coming out, leading to him canceling appearances and taking a leave of absence until all this negative chatter dies down.

(UPDATE: NBC has suspended Brian Williams for six months.)

Even though we live in an age when the public already looks at media professionals through the lens of cynicism, it is a stab in the heart of the journalistic ideal when a prominent broadcaster is caught stretching the truth. Okay, "stretching the truth" is being too kind -- Williams flagrantly misrepresented what happened, deceiving the public to elevate himself at the expense of truth, placing himself at the center of the stories he was telling instead of being objective and honest. He outright lied, shattering the public trust.

I know that many journalists have already lost their credibility, acting more like pretty but empty faces, talking heads whose only talent is reading a teleprompter. We live in a time when we don't trust our politicians, we don't believe in the achievements of our athletes, we don't blink an eye when countless celebrities fall from their pedestals in scandal after scandal.

Yet we need the press to hold on to standards of integrity and credibility. That seems like a laughable statement when so many media outlets are more concerned with delivering fluff and increasing ratings than they are with uncovering truth and disseminating knowledge. It must remain the ideal, however, no matter how jaded we've all become.

When the fourth estate is shattered, the core of our democracy is fractured with it.