To say that a reporter has "a nose for news" is a compliment. It means that the reporter is good at tracking down stories, digging up sources and following up on leads. I certainly don't think anyone would say that Brian Williams has a nose for news. He's a talking head, a cuddly house cat. He sits in his anchor chair each night and reads the words off the teleprompter. If a prominent politician or celebrity needs to be interviewed, Brian's your man (remember his three-and-a-half-minute interview with Jay Leno last Dec. 9?). When necessary, he'll travel. Washington for the inauguration, Beijing for the Olympics, New Orleans post-Katrina. He'll sometimes report from L.A. to get an early start on his vacation. And if the Nightly News ratings are slipping a bit in Cleveland or Detroit or Chicago, Brian will dutifully spend a day or two in one of those cities. He'll schmooze the local affiliate execs, film some promos with the local on-air talent, read the news from a local landmark and then fly back to New York in time to catch the Knicks game. But all that air travel can be tedious. Sometimes Brian will simply hop on the 30 Rock elevator to pursue a story. Last Nov. 3, he spent almost four minutes interviewing SNL head writer Seth Meyers. The on-screen caption for that interview read "Brian Williams Reporting". Um...okay--if you say so. I remember five or so years ago when NBC first announced that Brian would eventually be replacing Tom Brokaw as the Nightly News anchor (I can only imagine the behind-the-scenes lobbying and maneuvering that Brian must have done to get the nod). Until that time, Brian had been anchoring a nightly newscast on MSNBC. So after anointing Brian as the anchor-in-waiting, the NBC execs immediately dispatched Brian to the India-Pakistan border to give him some street cred. They wanted to show us what an intrepid and fearless reporter he is. That was funny. I'm sure that Brian ate some good local food, saw a few local flicks, talked to some local pols and filed a few reports. No biggie. Suffice it to say that then or now, Brian will never be mistaken for a reporter or a journalist.
Which explains a lot. I always thought that the phrase "a nose for news" was a metaphor. You can't really sniff out a story. Or can you? Maybe I was wrong. How else to explain Brian's recent nose job? Perhaps he honestly believes that a new nose will help him become more of an actual reporter. And maybe it will. So all I can say to Brian is: good luck with your nifty new news nose.