The humiliation unfolding with Brian Williams has caused me to reflect this weekend one of the great news anchors, Peter Jennings. I thoroughly enjoyed the biography Peter Jennings: A Reporter’s Life. He was not a perfect man, but you get a sense that he was remarkably genuine, which surfaced at times on air. He was my first choice on those nights I watched the national news.
I still fondly remember his last sign off, where he addressed his cancer and expressed his gratitude to his viewers. I was able to retrieve the broadcast online, anxious to show my wife the clip. As we watched it, she picked up on a significant line that applies to the Williams fiasco. As we replayed it, it struck me. In the clip Peter Jennings stated, “A journalist who doesn’t value deeply the audience’s loyalty should be in another line of work.”
Brian Williams’ exaggerations (his lying) revealed that he doesn’t value deeply his audience’s loyalty. Self-aggrandizement pushes aside the real purpose of the news and what viewers deserve. Maybe he should move on to another line of work.
Self-promotion is a dangerous devil all of us face today. Cameras and social media foster pretense. Brian Williams’ demise is a blunt reminder to all of us to be honest and genuine.
Your family, your friends, or whoever your audience is will appreciate and respect the real you.