Fictional News Anchorman Hits Home

Monday, 16 Dec 2013 07:41 AM

By Jon Friedman

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I admit it. I am a card-carrying journalist. I have regarded myself as one since my college newspaper days. I'll think of myself that way forever, too.

I take pride in my chosen craft. That's why I went to get a master's degree at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. I shake my head in scorn whenever one of my peers cuts corners on accuracy or ethics.

That's why the re-emergence of Ron Burgundy makes me squirm. Will Ferrell's characterization of a television-news anchor is a little too close to the truth for my comfort. Ferrell, a skilled satirist as a comedy actor, has all the moves of a real anchor and radiates all of the warts of the craft at its worst.

He is egotistical, shallow, silly, goofy, and frivolous. (Most people will tell you, too, that he is also very funny.)

Does Ron Burgundy remind you of anyone in particular? He could be the news reader on the local news in Buffalo or Kansas City or Memphis or Las Vegas or, yes, New York City. He is Everyman Anchor.

This is why Ferrell's Burgundy makes me squirm. We all want to trust our resident journalists. We hope they will put the news ahead of their ambitions. They don't always do this, of course. They preen. They care more about their appearance than the gravity of the news. This happens all the time, right? Of course, we all know I'm right, for better or worse.

Yes, I know it is light entertainment. So, what's the harm in poking fun at one of our great institutions? I agree. But I hope that the folks who bring us the news on TV will also see themselves in the goofiness and maybe, just maybe, decide to be a little more serious on the job.

I wonder if the news anchors will watch this movie and laugh uproariously with the rest of the audience in the multiplex or will they squirm a little, too? Will they feel as if they're looking in a funhouse mirror, where up is down?

Ferrell can be eerily spot-on in his sarcasm. Remember his terrific send-up of Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek back during Ferrell's "Saturday Night Live" tenure? Ferrell had done his homework. He had down all of Ferrell's trademarks, his smile, his looks of approval and disapproval.

He has pulled off another triumph here with his Ron Burgundy.

He's too good. He makes me squirm. He should make TV anchors feel uncomfortable, too.

Jon Friedman writes the Media Matrix blog for He is also the author of "Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)Invention, Shunning the Naysayers, and Creating a Personal Revolution." Read more reports from Jon Friedman — Click Here Now.

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