Contessa Brewer, a newsreader for MSNBC, who by the way attended the Newhouse School of Journalism at Syracuse at the same time as my daughter, introduced the Reverend Jessie Jackson yesterday as the Reverend Al Sharpton. After the greeting, before he could respond, she rattled on in her Tele-Promp-Ter reading for 20 seconds, while the pain and fury mounted on Reverend Jackson’s face. It was nothing less than a Saturday Night Live sketch. (You can, of course, enjoy all this on YouTube.)
When Jackson frostily informed Brewer about his real identity, she responded, amazingly, with: “Of course I recognize you and I can see you on the monitor, but the script I’m reading has the wrong name.” As I said, a “newsreader” not a “journalist.” Apparently she attended another branch of school, called the Newhouse School of News Reading.
She wasn’t in the moment. I find a great many people who aren’t “in the moment,” and consultants are no exception. These people are worrying about what to say next, what question to ask, how to inject their own self-aggrandizement, how to stay on the text in front of them, what to do about the phone call they received a few minutes before, and so on. They aren’t using a rifle, aren’t using a shotgun, aren’t using a water balloon—they’re using a kaleidoscope, awash in stimuli and changing scenes.
If Jackson could have issued forth a demon and turned Brewer into dust he surely would have. His expression was worth a thousand of his signature rhymes.
Don’t sacrifice opportunity through superficiality. If the moment isn’t worth it, don’t spend the time. If it is, then focus on it.
In the meantime, if you’d like a job in MSNBC news, you’ll have to demonstrate you can read a rolling script at ten feet, irrespective of the reality around you.
© Alan Weiss 2009. All rights reserved.