Burriss: Brian Williams' copter tale

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The Brian Williams helicopter episode has led too much hand-wringing about how much faith and trust we put in news personalities. Of course we have to trust the people who tell us what we need to know about the world. But two related questions are, of course, how much of the truth do they tell us, and how much do we trust what they say?

And because of this relationship, we have to ask, what happens when that trust is violated?

But what about their personal lives? Should we expect a higher level of morality and ethics? And if so why? What, exactly, is the connection between, for example, marital fidelity and reporting the news?

Now, let's expand this discussion a bit. What about celebrities, sports figures, actors? How much trust should we place in them, and what kind of standards do we hold them up to?

Back in the 1930s, when radio was first getting started, researchers found listeners placed almost unqualified trust in both the actors and the characters they played. Listeners who found themselves in difficult circumstances often cited the actions of radio characters to work out solutions to their problems.

So, why is it when a Hollywood celebrity fails to live up to whatever moral standards we set for them, we immediately stop trusting them, and in many cases boycott their movies, programs and music.

And further, what difference does it make whether we trust them or not? After all, it is really not very likely their supposed moral failure has anything to do with what they do on the screen.

Think about this: why do we trust people who make a living lying to us? After all, we rarely see these people without makeup, perfect clothing and a whole team of handlers and managers to make sure they say the right thing at the right time.

Too often, we gladly put celebrities on a pedestal, then, just as gladly, knock them off.

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Larry Burriss
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