Woke up. It was a Chelsea evening and the first thing that I heard was myself saying, “Whaaa?” Chelsea Clinton, avoider-in-chief of all things media just made her debut as a “special correspondent” for both NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and the prime time program, Rock Center.
When news of her appointment at NBC first broke I was in the middle of one of those family crises that puts everything in perspective. The new me realized: life and death = important. Plum media job goes to former off limits first child who as an adult shuns media with open disdain = whatever.
But now that I’ve seen it, I’m sorry, the old me is back and has to comment.
Billed now as a “broadcast journalist,” Chelsea, Clinton is, in fact, a PhD candidate who once expressed an interest in studying medicine.
Well, television is not, as they say, brain surgery. But it is more difficult than it looks. Those who effortlessly communicate intelligently and effectively on television make it look easy and that makes just about anyone think, “I can do that.” I hate to break it to about 85 percent of you, but you can’t.
If you don’t know how to communicate with people you cannot “do” television. You can have the best writers, the coolest photographers, the craftiest editors, and the savviest producers, but if you don’t know how to follow your gut or get other people to spill theirs, or how to look into that camera and talk so people will listen, then you can’t do television. Not even the “special” stories that Chelsea (or her NBC colleague Jenna Bush Hager) is assigned.
Chelsea, who when this appointment by NBC was announced, refused to comment to the media, is now on television and “delighted to be here.” Why does someone so smart not see the irony? How can she not see the difficulty of her audience in trusting the message of one who so hates the medium?
Immersed in my recent crisis and surrounded by actual surgeons, I had many questions all coming down to trust. Can I trust you with my loved one’s future? Do I trust you to tell me all the risks?
We can’t all know how to do everything. Someone has to fix the car. Some has to build the rockets. Someone has to perform the life-saving surgery. We have to be smart enough to know what we don’t know, ask the right questions, and when to let those who do know do their best.
I wish Chelsea were smart enough to know what she doesn’t know.
Felicia Knight is President of Knight Vision International, LLC
Image by Natalie Maynor