It's so annoying: He's a man of the people, he's one of us, he hasn't forgotten his roots. He used to be a firefighter! I might even believe some of his relentless NBC marketing rhetoric if Williams didn't stop reminding us every chance he got. Of course, the fact that a journalist feels the need to construct, and relentlessly sell, a forced public persona pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the state of corporate journalism in America today.
But Williams takes the whole blue collar thing and just jams it down everyone's throat. All the time. BriWi, give it a rest. You reportedly pocket $10 million each year to read the news for 20 minutes each night. (That comes out to roughly $50,000 per-broadcast.) You live in a restored farmhouse in Connecticut, and park your 477-horsepower black Porsche GT2 in the garage. And that's when you're not decamped to your Upper East Side apartment or appearing on Saturday Night Live or The Tonight Show. You're not like everyone else. You occupy the tiniest stratosphere of elitism in America. So why this obsessive marketing campaign to sell yourself as just an Everyday Joe?
I'm reminded of all this beause when I opened my NJ newspaper today out popped a copy of Inside Jersey magazine.
Williams spent part of his youth in Jersey so Inside Jersey profiled him. That's great. But the blue collar shtick is, as always with Williams, just relentless:
Williams says his youth at the Shore was fantastic, though solidly middle class -- a three-bedroom ranch, a wooden locker at the Surfrider Beach Club instead of a cabana, a 10-year-old car when he was old enough to drive...And with it comes a little dose of middle-class Jerseyness, too. "It's my world view. It's who I am," he says.
He considered taking the police exam in Middletown or becoming a county dispatcher. "I could have easily and happily become a 'townie' as we used to call them."
Yep, just one of the guys. The marketing routine has become so predictable, even Williams' boss know which phrases to pitch to reporters:
Steve Capus, president of NBC News, says Williams' Jersey roots are part of his success. "He has a real connection with middle America," says Capus, a Hoboken resident who has worked with Williams since 1986. "He stays true to his roots and who he is. He could go out to a black-tie event every night of the week, but he'd rather go home and watch a Yankees game with his son."
Williams is special and different and remarkable because he likes his kids! Can you imagine Peter Jennings or Dan Rather or Walter Cronkite ever being so slavishly devoted to maintaining a public persona in such a hackneyed way? But hey, it works. Here's the second comment posted under the article at Inside Jersey:
Good story. He sounds like a terrific, down to earth guy.