New anchor position proves trying for former reporter

From covering “Teflon Don” John Gotti to tracking down the world’s most wanted man (before he was wanted), John Miller owns a set of journalistic credentials that stacks up against the best in the news business.

But now that he is sharing an anchor desk with Barbara Walters on ABC’s “20/20,” he’s got to prove himself all over again.

He’s a reporter, not an anchor. Making an easy transition from the street to a chair under hot lights is not always a sure thing for television journalists.

As it turns out, though, proving he can do the job is nothing new to Miller.

In the ninth grade he talked himself into his first newsroom job. He was on the air at age 16 and a reporter for WNBC-TV in New York City by his mid-twenties.

Ever on the lookout for tips and advice to share with my students, I asked Miller to divulge the secrets of his success. The occasion was his recent appearance at FSU as part of the VISION Distinguished Lecture Series.

I thought he might say internships were the key, or connections in the business, or even pure luck (each of which can play a role). Instead came the answer:

“I never let anyone tell me what I could and couldn’t do.”

Simple, yet profound. But I should not have been surprised.

After all, this is the man who persuaded reluctant executives at ABC to send him to Afghanistan to interview Osama bin Laden back in 1998, before bin Laden became a household name.

He was the last western journalist to interview the man before 9/11.

I confess that I have not been an avid viewer of “20/20” lately. It runs opposite one of my favorite shows, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” But after meeting Miller I thought I would check out his performance. Sitting beside Walters, the queen of television news, Miller appears stiff, even a little ill at ease.

He is clearly not on his game-yet. And this brought to mind another morsel of wisdom.

Miller is trying something new, in front of millions of people to boot. How many of us can say we’re willing to step outside our comfort zones?

Prof. Holly Edgell, FAMU Journalism professor.