Tom Brokaw, the anchor who rose from an early stint at a station in Sioux City, Iowa to anchor three of the nation’s best-known TV-news programs – “Today,” “NBC Nightly News” and, for a short time, “Meet the Press,” is set to step down formally from NBC News, where he has worked since 1966.
Brokaw’s time on air has dwindled in recent years, while he has served as a special correspondent for the NBCUniversal-owned outlet, and also battled with cancer. He turned 80 in February.
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“During one of the most complex and consequential eras in American history, a new generation of NBC News journalists, producers and technicians is providing America with timely, insightful and critically important information, 24/7. I could not be more proud of them,” said Brokaw, in a prepared statement. His longest tenure was at “NBC Nightly News,” which he led between 1982 and 2004.
He is attached to an era when the evening-news anchors at NBC, CBS and ABC carried more influence than they do today, when news aficionados are bombarded minute by minute with urgent headlines on cable-news rivals and social media. Brokaw represented the generation that inherited the evening-news desk from John Chancellor, Walter Cronkite and Frank Reynolds. He vied with Dan Rather at CBS and Peter Jennings at ABC and helped NBC usurp CBS as the broadcaster of the nation’s most-watched evening-news program.
Brokaw didn’t rely on the “voice of God” narration that had become so much a part of evening-news delivery. He also had strong midwestern roots that gave him perspective beyond the New York and Washington, D.C. studios that news anchors typically haunt. He was born in South Dakota and went to college in Iowa. His early stints in broadcasting came in Iowa and Nebraska. He focused much of his time on books about the “Greatest Generation,” Americans whose lives were affected by World War II, and continued to work on historical analysis after his “Nightly” stint.
Brokaw joined NBC News in 1966, initially working in Los Angeles. By 1973, he was reporting from Washington, and in 1976, he was named co-anchor of the network’s “Today” morning show, where he worked alongside Jane Pauley. In 1982, with Chancellor off of “Nightly,” Brokaw began co-anchoring the evening newscast alongside Roger Mudd. Executives quickly soured on the dual-anchor format and Brokaw was made the program’s sole anchor by 1983.
He was the first U.S. journalist to interview with Mikhail Gorbachev, and was the only American network anchor to report from Berlin the night the Berlin Wall came down.
After he left “Nightly,” ceding duties to Brian Williams, Brokaw served as a sort of elder statesman for NBC News, offering commentary during elections and important special reports. When Tim Russert, the popular anchor of “Meet The Press,” died unexpectedly in 2008, it was Brokaw who announced the news to viewers — and then filled in on the Sunday program for a period of time.
Brokaw faced accusations of sexual harassment in 2018, when Linda Vester, a former NBC News anchor alleged Brokaw made unwanted advances toward her in a hotel room in the mid-1990s. Brokaw denied the allegations, and a group of prominent female anchors at NBC News, including Rachel Maddow and Mika Brzezinski, rose to his defense.
Brokaw plans to remain active in print journalism, authoring books and articles, while spending time with his wife, Meredith, three daughters and grandchildren.
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