I know everybody in America is mad at Ryan Lochte. Rightly so. He’s a fool and solely responsible for the lies that spewed from his lips.
But I’m also annoyed by NBC’s coverage of the Rio Olympics.
You know the lines between journalism and entertainment are blurred when Billy Bush — a cousin to George W. Bush and a journalist one step above Mario Lopez — is, mouth agape, interviewing a visibly drunk Olympic athlete on live television and not probing on critical issues related to the story.
You know, Ryan Lochte, I hear you. You’ve been victimized. But it seems like you’re pretty hammered, right now. You sure you got this right?
Wait, a gun was pointed at your forehead? Can you tell me this story again from the beginning? What happened?
Hold on. Maybe we should turn the cameras off and get you some water. Clearly, you’re in no shape to be on TV, right now. You smell like urine and an alleyway. Also, this story makes no fudging sense. Can we get an intern on this?
But to expect Bill Bush to do journalism is to expect NBC to have standards on what they air on The Today Show, which we know is a joke.
We live in a weird era of broadcast news where an event happens, and television executives use their editorial discretion to let “newsworthy” people tell their stories without any fact-checking or corroboration. The cycle goes like this:
Publish. Review. Edit. Redact.
That’s a flow formerly reserved for bloggers, but which now applies to major newspapers and media outlets. It’s old news to report that being the first to break a false story is better than being the last to report a fair and accurate account of boring events; however, newsrooms are now allegedly run like corporations. NBC didn’t have to give Lochte a platform for his story. That was a judgment call, which is why I think Bill Bush and his cadre of producers bear some responsibility for opening the door to this mess.
And what’s worse is the sanctimonious way in which Matt Lauer and Al Roker have worked overtime to shame Lochte. I didn’t see one substantive report from NBC during the Olympics on how the Rio where the government continues to be in shambles, women and tourists are not always safe, and the beaches continue to be polluted with toxic viruses and waste. But Lochte? Oh my god, this is breaking news.
When NBC stops chasing ratings and starts chasing the truth between 7-9 AM ET, I’ll listen to Lauer and Roker wax poetic about the privilege and trustworthiness baked into our society. Until then, someone ought to put that whole Rio reporting team on a 90-day performance improvement plan.
So for all of you future journalists and storytellers out there, I’m appealing to the better angels of your nature. Just because you have a microphone or a camera doesn’t mean you have to use it when a random story drops in your lap like a gift from God. Just because someone famous says something doesn’t mean you need to cover it. And when a random story comes out of nowhere, you have permission to use your education and senses to seek out the truth.
You have a college degree and tens of thousands of dollars in debt. You might as well use your skills. As Trump says — what the hell do you have to lose?