Watch Out for Deceivers!
In February 2015, NBC News suspended Brian Williams “as its lead anchor for six months,” stemming from an investigation into “exaggerated statements he has made about his reporting.” NBC News president Deborah Turness said, “Brian has a responsibility to be truthful and to uphold the high standards of the news division at all times.”1 Debate continues among Americans as to whether Williams’s suspension is appropriate. A CNN poll found a third of Americans believe that his credibility cannot be restored.2
In 2009, the Pew Research Center reported a two-decade low trust in news reporting. Only 29 percent of Americans believed that news organizations got “the facts straight,” down from 55 percent in 1985.3 While Americans trust the news organizations less and less, we still expect the news anchors to be truthful. The entire nightly news business is based on millions of television watchers putting their trust in the broadcast.
The author of 2 John put emphasis on discerning and following the truth. Telling the truth adds to one’s credibility, which can be lost quickly when that person is caught in a lie. However, few of us are completely honest 100 percent of the time. We must balance our expectations of truth-telling with our desire for immediate information and our individual propensity to exaggerate, tell stories, and hide the truth.
- Which professions demand a higher expectation of truth-telling? How do we react when someone we trust to tell the truth is caught in a lie?
- How does society’s desire for immediate information pressure news organizations to get a story out? How much do you trust or mistrust news organizations?
- In what situations are you most likely to exaggerate or stretch the truth? In what situations are you most likely to tell the truth? How do you feel or react when you are caught withholding complete information or in a lie?
From “Press Accuracy Rating Hits Two Decade Low,” Pew Research Center (people-press.org/2009/09/13/press-accuracy-rating-hits-two-decade-low/).
Reverend Katie Shockley is a licensed local pastor and serves as associate pastor at First United Methodist Church of Sachse, Texas.
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