Do the Work, Integrity Matters, Use Your Voice – Lessons from David Muir

David Muir

As a high school senior, David chose to interview one of his teachers for his Public Speaking class project. The teacher, who’d recently fallen while horseback riding, was explaining that her injuries resulted in surgery to remove her spleen. Not one to dodge an obviously pertinent question, David asked simply – “Can we see the scar?” The teacher declined, but, for reasons known perhaps only to her, she reached behind her desk to retrieve a gallon jar of murky liquid. In it was her spleen. David wasn’t affected in the least – rather, he took the jar and moved it in front of the camera for a close-up as he described the removed organ.

Every one that knew David knew he was determined to become a television reporter. As a youngster for Halloween, David would wear a trench coat to assume the role of reporter. Network news anchors Peter Jennings (ABC), Dan Rather (CBS), even Matt Lauer (NBC) were David’s childhood heroes.

In sixth grade, he wrote to Ron Curtis, the news anchor at Channel 5 in his hometown of Syracuse, New York, to ask how one gets a job like his. The reply had a powerful impact on David. The response read “Competition in television news is keen. There’s always room for the right person. It could be you.” David didn’t need to hear anything else – he had locked in on his future career.

During school breaks, he began to hang around at Channel 5 WTVH, volunteering for any chore available. He’d hold tripods for the film crew, get sodas for the anchors and staff, carry news stories hot off the press – anything to be involved. Over the next several summers, the station’s employees kept David’s growth chart on a wall, applauded his deepening voice, and sort of adopted him. He eventually became an intern at the station.

At school, David would read the daily announcements. At the end of the day, he would write news scripts and practice reading them. Both scholastically and in pursuit of his ideal career, David was always prepared. It was his passion and his preparedness which led to him graduating magna cum laude from Ithaca College in 1995 with a degree in Journalism.

That year he became a full-time employee at WTVH both as a reporter and anchor. His most notable reports came from his travels to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Gaza City following the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin as well as his coverage of then President Bill Clinton’s impeachment hearings. From 2000-2003, he worked at the ABC television affiliate in Boston, WCVB-TV. There, he was honored as part of the team who traced the path of the 9/11 hijackers. That team earned the regional Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative reporting. In addition, he spent a month in the Middle East covering the Iraq war, reported extensively on the sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Boston Archdiocese, and provided in-depth coverage of the issues in Florida regarding the 2000 Presidential race.

David reached the big-time when, in 2003, he joined ABC News – becoming the overnight anchor for World News Now. With ABC News he traveled the world reporting virtually every major story – from covering the devastation of tornadoes in Oklahoma to the reporting from the streets of Tehran during the nuclear talks. He’s reported from Cairo and Jerusalem, from Shanghai to Mogadishu, from the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina to Haiti after the earthquake. He’s interviewed Pope Francis, Barack and Michelle Obama, and Donald Trump to name but a few.

In just twelve years, David became “an overnight success” when he was named anchor and managing editor of ABC World News in 2014, replacing the legendary Diane Sawyer. Before Muir accepted the position, he made it clear that he would continue his role as reporter. Today, he’s an Emmy winner, a Writer’s Guild of America award winner and most recently, World News with David Muir has become the most watched network news program, beating out NBC for the first time since Peter Jennings was the anchor twenty-one years ago. These phenomenal achievements result from the fact that David Muir is a fearless brand.

Fearless Brands combine passion, purpose and persistence to achieve stratospheric results

David Muir has covered breaking news globally and interviewed many of the world’s most powerful people. His investigations have been far-reaching and have yielded significant findings. It’s fair to say that if there’s news being made, David Muir is reporting it live or from ABC News command central. 

 His passion is reporting – investigating and uncovering all facets of what is happening. His purpose is to deliver the news in a fair, accurate, and understandable manner. He’s quite aware of how many people get at least some of their news from social media and that many of those sources are questionable – that drives him harder to guarantee that he and his team deliver factual reports.

David Muir is persistent in practicing, preparing, and refining his craft. To say he’s committed to his career and his principles is an understatement – his passion for reporting is at the very core of his existence. He remains grounded by staying in touch with the values and sensibilities he grew up with in central New York, gaining great peace when returns to his hometown. Some of his most treasured times are those long flights he takes because they provide solitude – a brief respite from the usual hustle and bustle. 

Most of us didn’t discover our passion at such an early age – much less the clarity of purpose. Regardless, there’s much to learn from David Muir when it comes to self-fulfillment and delivering great value to others.

Do the work – There’s no shortage of talk about embracing our passion and finding our purpose – and for good reason. However, the ‘secret sauce’ of fearless brands is persistence. David Muir has dreamed, practiced, visioned, studied, and worked to perfect his skill as a newsman since a very young age. It’s that dedication – and work – that makes him the unflappable, award-winning journalist he is today. Learn from his example. Do the work.

Integrity matters – Muir understands that he and his team are delivering news to a nation divided. That drives him even harder to ensure that World News Tonight – with David Muir reports are accurate and fair. Muir doesn’t let cries of ‘fake news’ or ‘biased media’ affect him – he takes his responsibility to the news consuming public very seriously. Very few of us answer to the entire nation, yet all of us are well advised to maintain integrity in our business – in our lives. Integrity matters.

Use your voice – Two instances illustrated to Muir the power of voice. The first was as he covered the atrocious conditions in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. A diabetic woman collapsed in insulin shock in mid-interview. The next day, federal assistance began to arrive. His report had given a voice to the voiceless. The second instance occurred when he was in Cairo covering the Arab Spring. A young woman was confronted by government supporters in Tahrir Square – asking her why she was using her voice “this way”. She’d been actively supporting the revolution on social media – just days later President Mubarak was ousted. When addressing graduation at his alma mater Muir said this: “You don’t need a camera or a microphone to have a voice, I know you already have one. I’m simply here to urge you to use it.” We all need to be true to ourselves. We all need to use our voice.

David Muir holds a unique position in society – his work and his voice impact millions. Most of us have a much smaller sphere of influence. Yet all of us have the opportunity to embrace our passion, pursue our purpose and be persistent. All of us can become a fearless brand. 

Friday's Fearless Brand Personal Branding

Coach, International Speaker and Thought Partner - Bill’s mission is to add value to the world – one brand at a time. Bill guides individuals and companies alike in building what he refers to as a ‘fearless brand’. This is the process of discovering, embracing and delivering their greatest value – which allows them to realize greater profit. Read More

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