Tom Brokaw, an American television journalist and author best known as the anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News, recently celebrated the fifty year anniversary of his journalistic career, joining the ranks of former great communicators like Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Morrow. He is the only person to host all three major NBC News programs: The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, and Meet the Press and is the author of the bestselling book, “The Greatest Generation” (1998). He is to be applauded for being engaged in reporting the news, not just the story, for half a century.
In a recent broadcast celebration of his career “The First Fifty Years”, the veteran anchor revealed his thoughts about the fundamental principles of journalism, the era of old school messaging meets the new media and the importance of accuracy of messaging within a context. Today, everyone including the media is seemingly in attack mode in era of confrontation, seeking to tap into a prevalent state of fear, uncertainty and anger. With so many emerging non-traditional sources of information, communicators must be careful not to underestimate the impact of messages that draw on these emotions. Brokaw’s advice to listeners when receiving their news, “make the same intellectual effort as you do when buying a car as you do when listening to the news – do your due diligence.”
So what parallels and lessons can journalists, marketing professionals, and even social media users draw from Brokaw’s experience?
“We need to be responsible as purveyors of content,” offers Julie Gareleck, Founder and CEO of Junction Creative Solutions (Junction). “We need to get back to research, learning from experience, understanding those who came before us, and making decisions based off of facts – not rhetoric.” As business strategists we can learn from Kellogg and Harvard Review some of the most brilliant ways to approach business strategy from a time not known for technology revolutions or this time of the internet of things (IoT). It is important to learn and adapt our thinking and our practices to meet the new reality that we face. “We must challenge the integrity of the messages by asking: what are they selling; what is the motivation, and what is it that they are looking for from me?” says Gareleck. “Realize that there is always more to a bi-line.”
After a half century as America’s consummate communicator, Tom Brokaw has “confidence in the resilience of our country” but admits that he believes “we are lacking the tribe that is America.” Despite all the emotional slinging of suspicious rhetoric, the truth is our society has survived much more tumultuous periods of revolt and revolution. Whether our business is politics or business, we as communicators in this digital media revolution, must rededicate our efforts to base our message content on facts and less on hyperbole if we are to sustain our credibility.
“I remember Brokaw as a child, as a teenager, and as an adult. As journalism majors, we were taught to report a story based on facts. We didn’t have Google, Wikipedia, or social media. We had books, articles, newspapers, a microfilm to sift through to understand what it would take to be an influencer. And now, technology is at our finger tips, constantly. It’s noisy. It’s volatile at times. We must remember that we influence always. It could be 40 characters or it could be a 500 word prose. Let’s use our words wisely, “ comments Gareleck.