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Election 2008 is "Off the Hook!"

NBC Anchor Brian Williams talks to Kid Reporters about pundits and politics

By Jack Greenberg | null null , null
Brian Williams on the set of NBC Nightly News. (Photo: © Jon Whitney)
Brian Williams on the set of NBC Nightly News. (Photo: © Jon Whitney)

A great journalistic mind—that's how I would describe NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams. I sat down with Williams on the NBC Nightly News set recently to learn about his journalistic career and political views.

I first asked for advice for kids who might want to pursue a career in journalism. He said good journalists "have a fire" for their professions, "as if there's nothing else you'd rather do."

Williams has covered political candidates for decades but says he has no desire to ever run for public office. "I like it on this side of politics, getting to ask questions at debates and press conferences," he said. "I'll leave politics to the people who really want to do it."

We discussed this historic presidential election, which is exciting more than just journalists and politicians.

"It's crazy! It's off the hook!" Williams said about the 2008 presidential race. "There are people excited about politics who've never been before. The country is having a long conversation about the election."

That conversation includes possible choices for Vice President. Lately, speculation of an Obama-Clinton—or Clinton-Obama—ticket has grown.

"I don't see it," Williams said. "If they want to create a dream team—a kind of superticket—I suppose they'll put their differences aside."

No matter who wins the nomination, the candidate will make history as either the first African-American nominee or the first female nominee. I asked Williams about the historic impact of either candidate winning the presidency.

"In the front of many classrooms, there is a poster with portraits of all the Presidents on it in little ovals," he said. "They are all white males. We are not all–white-male as a country. So, if the Democrats win, great history will be made. In that last oval, that last picture is going to look totally unlike the previous 43."

This election year has seemed longer than any others too. Traditionally, the winning candidate is known before the snow melts in New Hampshire. This year, however, spring blossoms have come and gone, and there's still no Democratic nominee.

I asked Williams if he thought there was a better way to pick a candidate. He told me about a recent conversation he had with President George W. Bush. Bush told him he would like to team up with past Presidents to come up with a solution. Bush suggested setting dates that would give more states a say early in the race. Williams suggests regional primaries.

Brian Williams, the Anchor of NBC Nightly News, shakes hands with, Kid Reporer, Jack Greenberg
NBC Nightly News Anchor Brian Williams shakes hands with Kid Reporter Jack Greenberg. (Photo: © Jon Whitney)

Power People

Williams not only chats with Presidents, he has interviewed many powerful people in his career. His favorite, he said, was Nelson Mandela, whom he met the day Mandela was sworn in as President of South Africa.

"It was very exciting," he said.

The list of celebrities Williams has met and interviewed is too long to include in this story. Instead, I asked him if celebrity endorsements of candidates made a difference in election results.

"It depends on the celebrity," Williams said. "If they have moral authority and have done things in the public eye, and they stand for something, [it can make a difference]."

As a journalist, Williams would not say whom he is supporting for President.

"I don't even discuss how I vote with my family," he said.

Williams is one of the few journalists who is so well-known that he is a celebrity in his own right. For example, he has been parodied in skits on Saturday Night Live (SNL).

Williams and his wife were in the audience the night SNL opened with a parody that featured him. The skit was of a presidential debate he and Tim Russert moderated between the Democratic candidates. The jokes implied that the media have been much easier on Senator Barack Obama than Senator Hillary Clinton.

Williams agreed the sketch was funny but not accurate. "We don't have a favorite candidate," he said of the NBC News team. "There's no secret meeting where we go ‘Hey, we're gonna give Obama a break tonight!' Now I'm reading coverage that we've been too easy on Senator Clinton!"

Williams has certainly proved that he has a passion for his profession. That "fire in the gut" he talked about was apparent throughout our interview. His passion for journalism is very much tied up with his love of our country.

"You're living in a great country," he told me. "If we put our mind to it, we can do great things."


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About the Author

Jack Greenberg is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

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