Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Inappropriate Anchor

It's really a shame that even after five years, Brian Williams doesn't understand the function of an evening newscast or what the role of an anchor is supposed to be. In his intro to Monday's Nightly News, Brian crowed that, "'The Fleecing of America', our popular series, is back on the air by popular demand." Popular demand? A newscast should air segments because they are newsworthy, not because they are popular. Unfortunately, Brian and his producers are obsessed with ratings, so they air segments designed to attract viewers, rather than to report the news. (Later in the broadcast, Brian again described "The Fleecing of America" as, "...back by popular viewer and taxpayer demand..." It's pretty funny to see Brian try to position himself as a populist hero--I guess he fancies himself the Bruce Springsteen of network news anchors.)

Introducing the first story about Mark McGwire's admission that he used steroids, Brian said, "Because this is a family broadcast, we probably can't say what we'd like to about the news today...." But saying what he'd like is not Brian's job. An anchor's job is to report the news, not to offer his or her opinion about it. It seems that Brian doesn't understand the difference between Nightly News and MSNBC's Countdown With Keith Olbermann or The Rachel Maddow Show. People tune into those shows to hear the host's opinion. People tune into Nightly News to hear facts. The only opinions an evening news broadcast should be airing are those expressed by the pundits or experts being interviewed. Unfortunately, night after night, Brian lets us know exactly what he thinks of the stories that air on Nightly News. And that is inappropriate.

Continuing on the Mark McGwire story, Brian said, "For those of us who were raising young baseball fans and baseball players who looked up to Mark McGwire, that summer of '98 was magical...." Yet again, Brian has violated a cardinal rule of anchoring by telling us how the news affects him, instead of simply reporting the story. "For those of us" is not an appropriate way for an anchor to begin a story, but it is an all-too-common part of Brian's vernacular.

The NBC News executives should take a cue from their comrades at NBC Entertainment, who seem to have, in effect, ousted Conan O'Brien from The Tonight Show in order to reinstate Jay Leno as host. NBC News president Steve Capus should oust Brian Williams and reinstate Tom Brokaw as anchor of Nightly News. That way, we could all get to hear Brian say, "For those of us who used to work at NBC...."

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