Has the Network News Anchorman Become Irrelevant? Should You Care? I'm among the millions who are mourning the loss of ABC's anchorman, Peter Jennings. For more than 20 years I counted on him to tell me, in a voice as smooth as velvet, what happened in the world each day. I admit I first started watching him in part because he was great eye candy, a very handsome man who oozed authenticity from the TV screen. Over time, I came to realize that he was first and foremost a reporter, one who traveled the world extensively and worked hard to bring a balanced, accurate view of what he saw to those of us who counted on his wisdom and insight. The anchor chairs at all three major networks, ABC, NBC and CBS will never be the same. Jennings, Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather began their anchor positions within months of one another and they have now exited those positions within months of one another. It begs the question: "Are anchor positions still relevant?" Today's network news audience is much smaller and older than it once was. Millions of people now depend on the Internet for their daily news. Still others tune into talk radio. People just don't sit around together as a family to watch the evening news like they once did. Still, I think the anchor position is relevant and will continue to be for another generation. If you think it doesn't matter who sits in the anchor chair, consider this: it sure mattered when President Kennedy was assasinated; it mattered when the Challenger exploded; it mattered immediately follwing the Oklahoma bombing; it mattered when the Columbine shootings shocked us; and it certainly mattered when terrorists brought down the World Trade Center. In other words, every time the United States has gone through a major event that brought us together as a nation, it has been the evening news anchor many of us relied on to guide us through the event calmly, sharing facts, providing interpretations of what we were seeing, and filtering the news so we had a better idea of what we needed to know for it to all make sense. The bottom line is this: without even meeting the anchor of our favorite network, most of us felt we had some kind of relationship with him, one built primarily on trust. Chances are, your own reaction to some news has been driven in part by the demeanor shown by your favorite anchorman. That, my friend, is relevance. It's no different for the leaders of companies. The relevance of a company's leader is driven by their ability to build trust. And that trust is usually built through honest, open communications with the audience, or employees. The CEO is a lot like the network news anchor. Employees tune in to see how the CEO reacts to what's happening in their world (the industry, the community, etc.) so they'll have some idea what's expected of them. It's the CEO's job to share the news that affects the company, providing guidance on why it matters and what we can each do with the information given to us. I've worked for CEOs who built trust and therefore gained my trust; and sadly, I've worked for one CEO who just didn't get it. The fact is, in both situations, I loved the work I was doing every day, but once the trust was gone, so was the passion. How about you? Are you relevant to your company? Do people make it a point to tune in to what you have to say? Clearly, there is a direct correlation between our ability to build trust and how relevant we are to others. No one knew that better than Peter Jennings.


At August 09, 2005 7:32 PM, Blogger Bill Lampton, Ph.D. said...

You raise a good question, which I can answer succinctly. Yes, I believe the anchor will not disappear. As you said, we need the continuity of a daily news expert who assures us that no matter how discouraging the news is, we will survive and prosper--as we did after the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy assasination, 9/11 and other calamaties. The faces will change, so will the accents--and probably the genders. Even so, we want to watch and listen to an anchor who does what a ship's anchor does--gives us solid mooring during the strongest storm.


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