The controversy surrounding NBC anchorman Brian Williams — whether or not he told falsehoods in his news reports, whether or not he embellished tales relating to his own reporting experiences — kind of comes home to me.
Was he really in a helicopter hit by an RPG? Did he really see a body floating through the two-inch flooded French Quarter during his Peabody Award-winning coverage of Hurricane Katrina?
Which brings up the question, Who did Williams' performance review?
I've spent nearly 40 years in journalism and I think I know what it means to be removed from a story, and what it means to be as accurate as you can be.
So to this day, even though I am now nearly 10 years retired and serve as a contract writer for The Dispatch — a "stringer" who gets paid by the story — I still try to keep my professional, ethical and personal standards as high as I can.
That's why I never told anybody about the 46-yard field goal I kicked with no time on the clock to help my college, Kutztown State, beat West Chester State College 24-23 back in 1972. I was wearing my dad's paratrooper boots because it had a reinforced toe and I was only 5-foot-7. But the boot gave me incredible distance and the field goal set a school record that lasted for eight years. There was no TV coverage of the game, so nobody protested my footwear.
After college, I briefly became a minor league baseball player, a pitcher with a nasty knuckleball in the pitching-rich Mets' organization. I once struck out Mike Schmidt in a Cape Cod summer-league game, but unsuccessful Tommy John surgery forever after kept me out of the game. To this day, I have to write left handed.
Which is why I became a sports writer. I was honored to have won the Associated Press Media Editors (APME) Excellence Award for my coverage of a local high school basketball coaching controversy in Pennsylvania in 1976, involving two Amish men who resorted to fisticuffs to settle a score-keeping dispute. That was before I came to North Carolina, where I've spend the rest of my life in blissful anonymity.
Maybe blissful anonymity is the best we can hope for Brian Williams, too.