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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

NBC's Brian Williams and United 93 - the power of words

You've stuck through the entire rather dull half hour of network news on April 26. I certainly did, flipping between NBC, CBS, ABC and Lou Dobbs on CNN. It's nearing 7PM EST and one feels a bit jaded and of course nothing more can happen. And yet, I am wrong. I switch away from Shieffer's announcement of a closing and of course light-hearted piece on the London marathon. Will Lou Dobbs have something provocative in his final few minutes? Will I even bother checking out ABC? Should I invest in a TV with a PIP facility for 3 pictures in picture (is there even such an animal) so I can simultaneously see what is happening on the three networks and CNN? And then I stumble across Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News. Perhaps two minutes or so of dialogue, no pictures. He speaks calmly and yet with passion: the New York premiere of Universal Picture's United 93 movie. The item can go wrong; another PR job. After all NBC is owned by NBC Universal. And yet the end result is stunning if not breathtaking as to how Brian Williams is able to convey the atmosphere in the theatre. Air traffic controllers together with Flight 93 victims' families. Stunned silence and sobbing. Of course, this can be effectively done in print. See for instance James Bone's piece in the Times Online: www.timesonline.co.uk But could anyone else do it so well on the other network news as did Brian Williams tonight? With Jennings, Rather and Brokaw gone only Brian Williams is still able to leave you a bit breathless with the power of words in a medium that we have too readily accepted as being visually driven.


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