I've met and interviewed Brian Williams. He's a lovely guy. Personable, funnier than expected and smart. He is also irrelevant.
There's nothing wrong with Brian Williams. He is a smooth, professional news anchor. He's not offensive, biased or fake. He plays it straight - and that's his problem.
It's not him. It's us. We're not interested in someone regurgitating the news to us and taking a half hour to do it. We don't need a professional news anchor to tell us what the news is. This isn't 1955. I've got all the news in the world at my fingertips, what do I need this guy to tell me what he thinks is important? Who cares what Brian Williams thinks is important?
In the old days, you needed these authority figures to sort out the news for you and tell you what was important and weed out the riff-raff. But these aren't the old days. I have a mind of my own. I don't need to borrow a news anchor's. And if I were to borrow one, that's not the first place I would look.
In the new media, news is broken down into three subsets.
- The Collectors
Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, blogs that break stories, etc. These are our original sources. They are vital. Without these sources, there is nothing for anyone else to report.
- The Aggregators
Websites like Google News, digg.com, reddit.com, Huffington Post, Yahoo, AOL News and even your local paper (they aggregate the national and international stories that they do almost no original reporting on). This is where we get a majority of our information. It's quick, it's easy, and often times, it's personalized.
If you like news from a right-wing perspective, you go to Drudge. If you like news from a moderate or left-wing perspective, you go to Huffington Post. If you want it down the middle, you go to Yahoo. You want gossip, go to Perez Hilton. You want news and video from a progressive perspective, go to Crooks and Liars or Think Progress.
Everyone has their niche. Everyone has an audience they serve well.
- The Interpreters
Commentators that analyze the news from their (your) perspective. Fox News Channel, Keith Olbermann, Air America, Rush Limbaugh. Some blogs also fall in this category (unsurprisingly, blogs are often hybrids that cross many different boundaries).
These are people that help bring the news to you in a way you agree with. They inform you, but they also excite, enrage and impassion you. Their purpose is analysis/entertainment. Some people call this category infotainment. I prefer (my former co-host) Ben Mankiewicz's name for it - entermation.
So, where do traditional news anchors fit in here? Nowhere.
How often do television reporters break stories these days? Almost never. Most of them are actors reading the news pretending to be real reporters. I'm amused at how other TV reporters feign outrage at Katie Couric becoming the CBS prime time news anchor. Why, do you fancy yourself a journalist? Really, when is the last time you broke a story?
Most of the people on local news are former models and pretty boys with three brain cells between them. Are we supposed to be impressed? Look on TV, does it look like they are making their decisions based on looks or intelligence? Is it just a coincidence that all the pretty people wound up with the jobs on TV?
I understand there are exceptions and I actually picked Brian Williams as my example because I think he is one of the exceptions. He is an awfully bright guy who gets the news. But so what? Even he doesn't bring anything to the table. There's no value added.
Let me recount a recent conversation with my dad by way of example. He recently turned 70 and used to watch the evening news every single night. My mom would have to drag him away from it to get him to sit down for dinner.