Do we really want our TV news anchors to be jolly, jokey, backslapping, reg’lar folk you’d wanna share a beer with? That’s the impression I get from their efforts to appease and amuse Stephen Colbert. Now, I think the Comedy Central faux newsman is hilarious, but does that mean he gets to play puppeteer to real newsfolk, getting them to play along with silly stunts like his “Wrist Strong” campaign (see the video below)? At least Charles Gibson had the good sense not to play along like Brian Williams and Katie Couric — at first. Later, though, he caved a little with a jokey apology. None of these news professionals seems to remember that Colbert is a fake newsman on a late-night basic cable show.
After the jump, I’ll explain why I find the anchors’ behavior, particularly Williams’, so distressing.
The New York Times article linked above suggests the anchors feel they have to kowtow to Colbert to show their authenticity — as if they’re being more authentic when clowning around with Colbert than when they’re somberly intoning serious news stories on their own shows. That’s probably not authentic either; on a basic level, TV newsfolk are entertainers, and they’re performing every time they get behind a microphone, theirs or someone else’s.
Still, TV newsfolk seem to have confused themselves with politicians — who, in turn, are also expected to behave like entertainers all the time, and who also must make tongue-in-cheek appearances on The Colbert Report to prove their hipness. Williams seems to have taken this to an extreme lately. Not only is he broadcasting out of a casual newsroom that appears to be in his parents’ basement, but he’s even trying his hand at stand-up comedy. Again, why do we want news anchors and politicians who are loose, hip, and funny? I want my newscasters (and my elected officials) to be serious people who act like grown-ups. Don’t you?