Will runaway media smother homeless announcer Ted Williams as it tries to save him?
One of the most awesome qualities of today viral media environment, is its ability to focus the world's attention like never before.
Just ask Ted Williams. Days ago, he was panhandling in Columbus, Ohio, using his distinct voice and background as a broadcast announcer to leverage better handouts along the highway. This morning, thanks to a viral video shot by an Ohio journalist, he was telling his story to Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer on NBC's Today show, weighing job offers from the Cleveland Cavaliers, NFL Films and Kraft foods
(The appearance came after a brief battle with CBS' Early Show, which interviewed Williams Wednesday and tried to engineer a reunion with his 90-year-old mother at LaGuardia Airport, only to see Today's producers whisk him away).
Of course, this is where the gooey redemption story gets sticky. Because the world's attention can quickly move from a warm embrace to a white hot burn in a heartbeat -- and a guy who doesn't even have enough I.D. to get on a plane (Today show producers had to help him get enough documents together for the ride to New York) now has to navigate offers from a host of companies trying to leach a bit of his sudden fame and public goodwill.
Lauer asked about that notion -- Williams admitted his fall from a radio career came after he started snorting drugs in the mid-'90s -- and his response was that having religion and god in his life would make the difference.
"I didn't acknowledge the Lord or thank him for anything before," an excited Williams told the pair this morning. "This time around, I'm acknowledging him."
During the segment Williams also gave a shout out to his nine children and friends in Ohio who helped him get this far. A look at Twitter's long list of Williams-related messages shows people across the globe want to believe such a comeback is possible and are pulling for him to succeed.
But when even a reunion with his mother can be scuttled by warring media outlets vying for a piece of his story, you have to wonder whether the same platforms that helped alert the world to his amazing story might also make it tougher for him to take advantage.
Because the dark side of today's instant media environment is plain; the same exposure that can make you, will break you if you're not careful. I'm hoping, in addition to the Lord, that Williams gets a good agent in his corner. Fast.