Brian Williams on Newtown, Comcast and Being the Bearer of Bad News

By Merrill Knox Comment

The tables were turned on Brian Williams at the 92nd Street Y last night as the NBC “Nightly News” anchor was interviewed by Jonathan Tisch, the chairman of Loews Hotels.

Williams reflected on the trajectory of his career and some of the major stories he’s covered recently, including the school shooting in Newtown last year. Tisch asked Williams if there are ever times during his newscasts when “the words just don’t come.”

“Showing up in that town, it was the saddest place on earth,” Williams said. “I sat in a car for awhile and I looked at people walking by. I was ashamed at some of my fellow media people who came out of their lives in New York, sometimes not thinking, ‘we’re laughing to each other.’ Camera people, print journalists, television journalists, people I knew, people I didn’t know. It just was such a crushing weight of sadness.”

Williams, who said having the responsibility of delivering tragic news is “not a cherished role for an Irish Catholic kid who grew up wanting to please everybody,” also reflected on some of the other devastation he has seen in pursuit of a story, like in Banda Aceh after the Indonesian tsunami and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Traveling to where the news is important to Williams, who said he has never once been denied the financial resources to properly cover a story, even during tough economic times.

“Things like transportation, things like airlift capability, moving people, equipment, me going to a story, it has never been raised. I have never been in a meeting in my 20 years at NBC where someone has said, ‘whoa,'” Williams said.

Williams described Comcast, which recently acquired GE’s 49% stake of NBC for full control of the company, as “terrific employers, very good stewards,” but joked that he will “miss the employee discount in locomotives.”

Williams also discussed how he got his start in television, a story he recounted last year for MediabistroTV’s “My First Big Break.”  Watch it after the jump.