The Death of Journalism As We Know It?
Brian Williams hosted "Saturday Night Live" this past weekend and the sun still rose out of the east as scheduled Sunday morning.
I can't imagine Walter Cronkite or Chet Huntley doing it, but then again, SNL wasn't around during the days of the Camel News Carivan or black-and-white Philcos.
These are different times, with news anchors now appearing regularly as radio guests or on Jay Leno's couch--something Williams' predecessor, Tom Brokaw, did with great regularity. Is it wrong for a newsperson to reveal a personality?
I went through this on a much, much smaller scale back in the early 80's. When I first arrived in Milwaukee, there were disc jockeys, and then there were the people who did the news. Never did the two mix. Sure, there was David Haines on WZUU who rode shotgun with Larry "The Legend" Johnson but Larry got his 50 minutes to "speak his onions" while David got ten to prattle off the news in his own inimitable style.
I was given the chance to be a co-equal with Jim Rodio on WQFM and later with Bob Reitman on WKTI--a newsperson who was also part of "the show". There were things I wouldn't do--commercials, for one, and I worked consciously to make sure my political leanings never bled through on the air. It was a fairly new concept in town in the early 80's, and soon the barriers came down. Some took it farther than others. And, a few of my collegues didn't much care for the change.
I remember a particularly frosty reception from a Fox River Valley radio news director who I met at a convention early on in my KTI run--right after the infamous "Cabbage Patch" stunt. It was the trick that put Bob and I on the Milwaukee radio map, but it buried me in the eyes of this old-school journalist with a "J" who thought such antics had no place in radio. He made no secret of his disdain for either me or my ilk. He wasn't going to change, and I wasn't going to apologize.
I hope he had a long and fruitful life.
There are SO many other areas where the journalistic line gets blurred--focus groups dictating news content being one in particular. I don't think Edward Murrow was spinning in his grave when he saw Brian Wiliams playing a New York City firefighter on one SNL skit, or a less-than-enthusiastic lottery winner on another. If anything, it makes him "one of us."
And, it made me laugh.