J-School Prof Sees Undeniable Proof Of Dawn Of Journalism’s Apocalypse In Brian Williams’ Upcoming Appearance On Saturday Night Live

Posted by: Jon Fine on October 31, 2007

It’s never hard for the luminaries of journalism schools to manufacture a little outrage, and Louis Ureneck, who’s the journalism department chairman at Boston University’s College of Communication, came up with the below, which was emailed around to reporters today.

He was reacting to the news that NBC’s nightly news anchor Brian Williams will be appearing on Saturday Night Live. The PR person sending out the email suggests that Katie Couric would be “crucified” were she to do the same, but Ureneck’s the one who came up with this gem:

“Neither of them should be hosting Saturday Night Live. This is a
publicity gimmick and only serves to muddy the distinctions between news and entertainment television.”

I’m glad to see someone speaking up on this one. Because if by some horrifying accident I found myself watching Saturday Night Live and saw Brian Williams yukking it up with the cast, you know, I might get all confused, and think that they’d changed the timeslot and the format of the nightly news without telling anyone!

I mean, it’s tough enough already to tell the difference between Charlie Gibson’s newscast on ABC and Desperate Housewives. Or Lost. (Maybe not Lost. That’s the one on the desert island, where there’s nothing you could mistake for an anchor’s desk. Right?)

Professor Ureneck? Puh. Leeze.

Reader Comments

Don

November 1, 2007 10:21 AM

Journalism professors that I knew were universally out of touch with the work of journalism almost worse than any other professor I knew in college. I remember one journalism student who was unable to say the name Mario Lemieux, substituted the name of another player as the scoring player in her broadcast on live radio and when I questioned the Journalism advisor's dedication to "the truth" and his B grade for that reporter. He responded that I was hung up on details and that sports was too full of useless trivia. Indeed for the 25 listeners of one college radio station there was a different Pengiun who scored 5 goals(!) against the Philadelphia Flyers that day. It was sort of impossible to explain to that professor that 5 goals was a big enough deal in hockey to make the reporter learn to pronounce someone's name.

Therefore I take all complaints about "journalistic ethics" with a grain of salt- such a concept was never put into execution professionally in American Media, so they need to drop the artifice.

Sheila

November 5, 2007 10:49 AM

Edwin Newman was on SNL back in the 1980s and sang a song from My Fair Lady. I think BW's bad fake-n-bake is more apocalypse-inducing than the concept of him hosting SNL.

Anne Campbell

January 7, 2008 7:39 PM

I agree with Louis Ureneck. And the reason why I agree with Professor Ureneck has nothing to do with audience confusion. I just refuse to think that today's television audience is uneducated or ignorant enough to confuse Brian Williams' performance on "SNL" with his nightly new broadcast on NBC. Alright, alright, I know that comparisom was written tongue in cheek. In truth, it was an effort to belittle Mr. Ureneck's belief that news and entertainment should be kept separate. "What's the harm", is the general concept of the article. It also indicated that journalists are like everyone else and shouldn't take themselve too seriously. Ouch, that hurts. On the surface, those sentiments make sense in today's world. Yada, yada, yada. It's politically correct to parrot those reasons today. However, when I see Brian Williams on "SNL" and Anderson Cooper co-hosting "Live with Regis and Kelly", I wonder which genre of communications these folks really ascribe to; entertainment or journalism? Call me old fashioned, but when I read a newspaper or magazine article, and when I watch television news shows, I like to think that the people writing and presenting the news to me have one object in mind when they are doing so, and that is to deliver the news accurately and timely without bias. I also would like to think that they do not care if they are liked by the public or not when they do that. For it seems to me that appearances on shows like "SNL" and "Live With Regis" indicate a desire to be "liked"; a desire to show the rest of the world that they are just like everyone else, when in fact they are not like everyone else. It takes special people to present honest news that people maybe might not like to hear. I know very few people who stand up for truth when they know it is the unpopular thing to do. The few people that I do know who do so are not journalism people. I'm just trying to point out that the journalism people that we see on the evening news shows need to be more interested in the news that they report to the people than they are in hawking their charisma on entertainment programs. Journalism requires integrity. Duplicity does not now or ever did belong in journalism. If Brian Williams and Anderson Cooper cannot understand this, then maybe they are just "talking heads". Louis Ureneck just told it like it is. Period.

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