Brian Williams had the world by the, er, tail. And he blew it.

The demise of the NBC News uber-anchor has been a sight to behold as vultures worldwide pick over his all-but-dead body. His six-month suspension resulting from his mistakes in retelling his Iraq War experience are inexcusable for a man in his position. His fall from grace has made me sad, sick to my stomach and questioning the future of journalism.

All of this agita for one man's embellishments and "misremembering" of a war-time exploit? Absolutely.


Williams broke the cardinal rule of not just journalism, but life. Two thousand years ago, St. Luke wrote: "From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more."

Like it or not, that's the standard that exists, not just for journalists, but for anyone in a position of power. It's why priests and rabbis, politicians and pop stars make news for their sinful — or just plain stupid — exploits.

And it's why Williams is facing the media firing squad with few supporters at his side.

His mistake (mistakes?) takes credibility away, not just from a single man, but from a profession already at the bottom end of the trust heap despite its mantra to seek truth. And journos, who usually protect their own, need cover.

Last year, Gallup polled Americans' confidence in the media's ability to report "the news fully, accurately, and fairly." Forty percent said we're doing a good job. That's 60 percent who said they had "not very much" trust or "none at all."

Pretty pathetic.

While the rating is a heck of a lot better than Congress's (11 percent — up from 7 percent — in June according to Gallup), our profession's prestige has been in decline since, many would argue, Walter Cronkite stepped away from his CBS perch in 1981 as "the most trusted man in America."

So what happens to trust in journalism now? How long until we fall to the level of lawmakers? And how much of the decline will be Williams's fault?

We expected a lot from Williams. He let us down. And he confirmed Americans' bias that objective and truthful journalism is a waste of time.

Yet despite the anchor's wrongdoing, an individual's comment on my Facebook page gave me pause. "Careful," he said when I posted a piece I wrote calling for an NBC reprimand for Williams. "Some mistakes are unforgivable. This is not. He apologized." He continued with a quote from Jesus's Sermon on the Mount. "'Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.'"

We are all human. We make mistakes. The question is what we do with it. And Brian Williams has six months to figure it out.

Ashburn is an award-winning Washington-based reporter and TV analyst covering media and politics.