One of the things I love about The New York Times is the special, unexpected, innovative features it periodically offers.
A case in point, today, is “The Sounds of the Downhill,” an interactive post that is the “centerpiece” of the paper’s home page. Through a body- or helmet-mounted camera fixed to a world-class skier, the two-plus minute feature takes you on an entire downhill run on a competitive ski course. It’s like you are riding piggyback with the skier as he whooshes along, tilting and turning past red course markers that come and go in the flash of an eye. You hear the sounds of rushing wind; the low-crushing skis on ice; and the skier’s voice, describing what he’s feeling and hearing.
It is an amazing piece of video. It took at least four people — those named in the credits — to put it together.
This is where The Times stands head and shoulders above other papers. It invests in technology and integrates it into its coverage of news and feature stories. It does not cut corners, and it is willing to spend whatever it takes to stay on top.
:: If you like “NBC Nightly News” and anchor Brian Williams, you might want to grab a freeze frame of Brian because he might not be occupying the anchor chair much longer.
That’s the way I see it, anyway, after news surfaced yesterday that Williams’ longstanding claim that he was in a helicopter that was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) in 2003 is untrue.
This story has been all over the news yesterday and today.
Williams, whose newscast has led the network ratings for most of the last decade, has said several times in recent years that he was aboard a U.S. Army helicopter when it was hit by an RPG on one of the first days of the Iraq War in 2003.
As recently as last Friday, while honoring a veteran on “NBC Nightly News,” Williams recounted how his helicopter was “forced down after being hit by an RPG.”
He was actually aboard a different helicopter.
Williams’ fabrication came to light when Flight Engineer Lance Reynolds, who really was on the helicopter that was hit with an RPG, posted a comment on the “NBC Nightly News” Facebook page. Reynolds wrote:
“Sorry dude, I don’t remember you being on my aircraft. I do remember you walking up about an hour after we had landed to ask me what had happened. Then I remember you guys taking back off in a different flight of Chinooks from another unit and heading to Kuwait to report your ‘war story’ to the Nightly News. The whole time we were still stuck in Iraq trying to repair the aircraft…”
Reynolds told Stars and Stripes: “It was something personal for us that was kind of life-changing for me. I’ve know how lucky I was to survive it. It felt like a personal experience that someone else wanted to participate in and didn’t deserve to participate in.”
Williams then fessed up in a Facebook post of his own, saying:
“I spent much of the weekend thinking I’d gone crazy. I feel terrible about making this mistake, especially since I found my OWN WRITING about the incident from back in ’08, and I was indeed on the Chinook behind the bird that took the RPG in the tail housing just above the ramp. Because I have no desire to fictionalize my experience (we all saw it happened the first time) and no need to dramatize events as they actually happened, I think the constant viewing of the video showing us inspecting the impact area — and the fog of memory over 12 years — made me conflate the two, and I apologize.”
Interesting, don’t you think?
:: “I have no desire to dramatize events as they actually happened.” Really? No desire whatsoever to make yourself seem a little larger in life than you actually are?
:: “…the fog of memory…made me conflate the two.” Conflation? Fog of memory? Nope. The euphemistic word he should have used was “mislead,” as in, “I don’t know what prompted me to mislead.”
CNN reported today that the network “stood by Williams’ apology and had nothing further to say.”
CNN went on to say that others within the news division had said off the record that “shock and disbelief about Williams’ foggy-memory explanation” was widespread.
…My guess is NBC executives will hold their collective finger in the air and see how strongly the wind blows. The network would love to keep Williams, but if the blowback gets too strong, with falling ratings, he’ll be ushered out.
You already know what I think — and I hope most of you agree: He should be fired today. How can a news organization — any news organization — that prides itself on going after “the truth” and getting to the bottom of stories keep a liar as the face of its operation?