During the National Conference of the Society of Professional Journalists on Sept. 10, 2004, NBC Nightly News host Brian Williams stressed that “integrity…is all we have” as broadcast journalists, adding that anything aired on NBC’s primetime news show is painstakingly combed through for errors and that the network “broadcast[s] no word before its time.”
During the conference, Williams, who at the time was preparing to take over NBC Nightly News for then-anchor Tom Brokaw, shared a stage with journalism legend and former CBS Evening News host Walter Cronkite. The veteran journalist and the new primetime anchor discussed the future of the broadcast news industry and the ethics of reporting.
“When you create a story at NBC Nightly News, when I sit down to write copy for air, I assign it, in the computer, a ‘one.’ It then goes through a series of traps, where writers and senior editors assign it a ‘two,’ ‘three,’ ‘four,’ and then it is ‘x’ed by the executive producer. No item can be read on the air without carrying an ‘x,’” explained Williams.
“If it needs to be amended, I go back into the document and see what they’ve done to my…poetry, really,” Williams added, to the amusement of the audience.