Media's Public

What if TV anchor persons would fabricate stories?

By Pachico A. Seares
Public & Standards Editor
Sun.Star Cebu and Sun.Star Superbalita [Cebu]

Not rude to tell Leo or Bobby, Choy, Jason or Frank, that they erred

Callers to talk-show hosts shouldn’t criticize by generalized attack.

They could be specific about a factual error in an issue or event, especially if:

— The host’s conclusion is based on that mistake of fact; or
— A major piece of information was withheld by the host, thus impairing his view on the matter.

Instead of generalized blasts at the host, the caller can be more effective and help public interest more by rectifying errors of fact or logic.

Personal knowledge of the caller or undisputed reports in the news may be used to sort out an issue or event.

Politeness would help. No superstar would want to be publicly reprimanded. – PAS
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Brian Williams, anchor of NBC Nightly News, said the chopper he was flying in while he was on assignment covering the war in Iraq in 2013 was struck by enemy fire.

Bill O’Reilly, host of the Late Show on Fox News, said that while covering the 1992 Los Angeles race riots, “concrete was raining down on us” and “we were attacked by protesters.” He also lied about being “in a war zone and seeing people killed” during the Falklands War in 1982.

The problem is that the incidents didn’t happen. That and a few other stories Williams and O’Reilly gave were embellished or lied about.

Williams admitted the fabrication first aired in 2013, then repeated as recently as last Jan. 30. Meaning, it was not a lie made only once when he was in a mood to “dress up” his tale; he repeated it through the years, on air and off, in his news program and in public forums to which he was invited.

Screwed-up in the mind

“I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another.” There was one aircraft that was hit, but not the one that Williams rode in. That screwing up must have gone on after the first telling, to explain reprise of the fabrication.

NBC News suspended Williams for six months without pay, as managing editor and anchor of the network’s flagship news program.

Fox News, on the other hand, saw an “orchestrated campaign” against O’Reilly, who, a spokesperson said, “is no stranger to calculated onslaughts.”

NBC News investigated and suspended Williams while Fox News rushed to O’Reilly’s rescue, defending him and dismissing the charges against him as baseless and malicious.

Format, personality

What’s the difference?

It could the format of NBC’s Nightly News which adopts standards and safeguards of mainstream news organizations, relying on credibility of its journalists, include the news reader and commenter, to keep its audience.

O’Reilly’s Late Show, on the other hand, is mostly opinion. News is diluted, twisted, or bent to serve the conservative agenda of the network and the show’s personality.

Williams is mostly news reader who keeps his opinion to himself and observes balance and fairness throughout the program, and, if he pushes an advocacy, presents it within accepted standards of journalism.

O’Reilly deals little with the news, except as peg for his opinions.

He is said to “owe his career” to “willingness to assault political opponents” and “stomp on minority viewpoints.”

NBC News, I think, fears that Williams’s fabrications might dent his credibility and he’d lose his audience. The network must also worry about its image as communicator of the truth. How would the rest of the industry rate its values if it would allow Williams to get away with his lies?

Fox News, in contrast, regards O’Reilly’s fibbing as part of the show persona and deems the tearing down of their star performer as an attack against what the network has been doing, to push its agenda and nothing else.

Cebu situation

Nothing can be compared close to the Cebu setting. The top broadcast commentators haven’t been to any combat zone or its equivalent, such as a shootout between rival gangs or between police and drug groups.

Thus, audiences have heard GMA-7’s Bobby Nalzaro talk about his farming experience as a boy in Zamboanga, or dyRF’s Choy Torralba remember his bachelor days in Lahug, or dyCM’s Frank Malilong about his adolescence in Masbate.

We don’t know if they “embellish or lie” about it. Nobody fact-checks local broadcasters about what they say on air, be it innocent reminiscing or serious allegation about an issue or event. Perhaps nobody cares or no media consumer has yet taken the courage to hit back with contrary data. (The former mayor has sued Nalzaro for libel but it wasn’t a question of fact but about the interpretation of the word “fabricate.)

Habit

Local audiences yet have to acquire the questioning habit of U.S. media readers and watchers: “Say that again, did he say that? That’s wrong!” Media watch groups, which are trained in media literacy and distinguish fact from fiction, have yet to operate as strong deterrent against media errors and falsehoods. They’re too timid or media outfits that are criticized don’t take it well. (“Media critics? Would a fire hydrant love a dog peeing on it?”)

Just as audiences need to be alert about what sees print, they must watch out for what is said on radio and TV, as they influence public opinion in various media platforms.

(publicandstandards@sunstar.com.ph or paseares@gmail.com)

1 Comment

  1. jerry says:

    to the famely of CBS anchor Otis Livingston tell him to stop tretened people onthe streets of New York he mey go to jail

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