The University of Wisconsin Center for Journalism Ethics hosted former NBC news correspondent Pete Williams for a Q&A session at the Memorial Union Play Circle Wednesday.
Williams was a reporter at NBC for 29 years, covering the U.S. Supreme Court and Department of Justice, according to the Center for Journalism Ethics. Williams is visiting UW as part of the Center’s journalist-in-residence program.
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The conversation covered a discussion of ethics. Williams discussed switching from a government position, when he worked as a spokesperson for the Pentagon, to a reporter covering justice issues.
Williams discussed the importance of remaining neutral when reporting on the Supreme Court. Both sides of the argument often make good points, so it is important to give equal weight to each, Williams said.
“No one should be able to watch you on the nightly news and go ‘Aha! He wants this side to win,’” Williams said.
Williams talked about apparent bias in the Supreme Court prevalent today, arguing that sometimes the justices are not biased, but rather it is their legal opinion to lean one way. However, he said Republicans seem to be in a hurry on the modern court, evident in the recent overturn of Roe v. Wade.
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Williams covered some current issues in the Supreme Court, including 303 Creative v. Elenis, a case regarding a website designer refusing to work with same-sex couples, and Moore v. Harper.
Williams said reliance on sources could be a tricky road, but when it comes to tragic events such as the Olympic Park bombing, which he covered at NBC, according to the Center for Journalism Ethics, sources are all journalists have to go on when the public wants information on an event.
The conversation also covered why Williams got into journalism and why he specialized in law. Williams told the story of his childhood, when he ran a neighborhood newspaper, before moving into radio in high school and college.
“I’ve never understood people who were unsure about their careers,” Williams said. “I’ve always known this is what I wanted to do.”