Thursday night’s Notorious, ABC's navel-gazing news media drama, called out Brian Williams in an episode that revolved around the lead character Julia George's (Piper Perabo) disgraced former mentor, Dana Hartman. The former anchor was canned after it came out that she had fabricated an interview for her show. The fake interview led to the assassination of its real-world subject and Julia turned her in to the LA Times and the fallout ended Hartman's news career.
Hartman admits the fabrication was "the biggest mistake I've ever made in my life," but is obviously still bitter about the incident. Exasperated, she rails on former NBC anchor Brian Williams who was "back on the air a year later" after getting caught lying about his experiences in Iraq.
Julia: You were my mentor. And I admired you more than anyone, not to mention you are a great newswoman, and you broke through glass ceilings –
Dana: But I made an unfortunate mistake.
Julia: "Unfortunate"? You committed journalistic fraud. You fabricated an interview.
Dana: Brian Williams embellishes a story and gets back on the air a year later. But I'm -- I'm out of the business.
Julia: You didn't just embellish. You made up an entire interview, and then your alleged source was assassinated. You never met with him. You never even left the hotel room.
Dana: It was the biggest mistake I've ever made in my life.
If only journalists in the real world were held as accountable for their misconduct as the fictional Dana Hartman. Yes, Williams was fired from his NBC News position after an initial six month suspension, but just as quickly, he was given a new job at sister network, MSNBC.
Julia's concern about being taken down with her boss was similarly overblown when compared with the real world. Although Rolling Stone was pressured into terminating its contract with Sabrina Erdely over her infamous and thoroughly discredited UVA rape story, to my knowledge, none of the editors who reviewed her work have been held accountable for their failures.
Maybe someday, this will change, but I won't hold my breath.