The Real Brian Williams
NBC Nightly News Anchor chats with presidents and buys groceries for his family
Brian Williams listens to a question from Kid Reporter Kajal Jani. (Photo: © Jon Whitney)
One of the most famous faces on TV is an avid reader. NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams says he is never too busy to fit reading into his schedule.
"I love reading books," he told Scholastic News Online. "I can't be alone without a book. I get shaky if I'm going to be on an airplane [without] a book."
The longtime journalist fell in love with reading early in life. "I was an 8-year-old in a house in Upstate New York reading Scholastic with very big dreams," he said.
Williams recently talked about growing up and pursuing his dreams during an interview with Scholastic Kid Reporters. They met on the NBC Nightly News set in New York City's Rockefeller Center.
His days as a teenager, he recalled, were all about the automobile.
"All I wanted to do was drive my father's Dodge way too fast," he said.
Maybe that's why he is not too enthusiastic about lowering the voting age to 16. "I didn't have a whole lot of common sense or judgment when I was 16," he said when asked the question. A thoughtful and deliberative man, Williams said he would have to investigate the idea of a lower voting age before forming an opinion.
"I've never been asked that before," he said.
Maybe that's because Williams is usually the one doing the asking. As the most honored network news anchor in the U.S., he has received four Edward R. Murrow awards, five Emmys, and the duPont–Columbia University Award. He was also given his field's highest honor, the George Foster Peabody Award for his coverage of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
He has reported from battlefields and disaster areas. He has withstood hurricanes and riots to report the news. He may be the most well-traveled journalist in his lifetime, but still, he says, he leads a pretty normal life.
"I love getting into the car and going driving," he said. "I also do all the grocery shopping for my family." He and his wife have two kids, a son in high school and a daughter in college. His daughter comes home many weekends with loads of dirty laundry.
Like many Americans, he spends a great deal of time at work and commuting. When he does come home, he says he goes online to check out his seven or eight favorite Web sites before finally going to bed. He only sleeps about six hours a night. A vacation for him is eight hours of sleep!
|Brian Williams with Kid Reporters Kajal Jani and Jack Greenberg. (Photo: © Jon Whitney)|
The Road to Success
Before becoming a journalist, Williams wanted to be a firefighter. When he turned 18, he joined the local volunteer fire company. Whenever he goes to a city to cover a story, he always stops by a firehouse to meet the firefighters.
In college, he considered going into politics but then changed his mind.
"I know too much about politicians to ever go into that profession," he said. "I think it's enormously hard."
He understands politicians, he says, especially when they lose their tempers.
"I think I like it on this side of politics, getting to be the one to ask the questions at debates and press conferences," he said. "I will leave politics to the people who grow up really wanting to do it—just like I did about journalism."
Along with his passion for journalism, Williams loves history, the military, and the Supreme Court.
"I try to point out history every chance I get when I do the broadcast," he said. "I do a lot of work with veterans."
Overall, Mr. Williams just loves talking politics, which is one reason he loves his job.
"Every night, I get to tell millions of Americans what [I] think is important about [the] day," he said. Because of his job, he has met most of the Presidents I've lived under. "It's incredible, and it's all because of my career."
Journalism is not for everyone, he pointed out. He is not pressuring his kids to go into the profession.
"If they can do [it] well, if it's in their heart, if it's all they want to do and they can do some good with it, and [if] it's good to them, I can't stop them from going into this line of work," he said. "I just want them to be able to say that there's nothing they'd rather do."
That's his message to all the would-be journalists, including the members of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.
"Remain true to your values," he said. "Don't take a job with some company whose publication you wouldn't really buy or read yourself just because it's a job. Don't do that. Hold out for a better job. If you're good at journalism, the good jobs will come to you because your work will stand out."
Scholastic Kid Reporters are on the campaign trail. Keep up with the latest election news in this special report.
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Kajal Jani is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.