Notes from Evan Smith
"Yes, yes, Katie Couric and her millions and all that -- but do we really even *need* the nightly network news? Do we really *need* to sit down to watch a paltry 22 minutes of rehash and soft service and gimmickry, when there are plenty of other places to go for headlines, breaking news, interviews, analysis, and the like at all hours of the day? That's what I wanted to ask Tom Brokaw, the longtime anchor of the NBC Nightly News, when he made a rare trip to Texas in September, and his answer, not surprisingly, is that we shouldn't look for the shuttering of his old stomping ground any time soon. But that's not all he said about the future of news, and he was quite candid and chatty on other topics too -- a model guest, you might say, as I have since the moment we turned the cameras off. How refreshing for someone who spent his life, as it were, on the other side of the desk to be the polar opposite of a primadonna. Surely his humble heartland roots have something to do with it: Born 66 years ago in Webster, South Dakota, Brokaw graduated from the University of South Dakota with a degree in political science and jumped feet first into broadcast journalism, cutting his teeth at affiliate in Sioux City, Omaha, and Atlanta. In 1966, he was hired by NBC, where he has spent every waking hour of his career since. Ten years as a reporter gave way to five years as host of The Today Show, which in turn propelled him into the anchor chair. Twenty three years later, on his timetable rather than someone else's, Brokaw handed the reins to Brian Williams. A best-selling author as well as the winner of just about every award given to a newsman, he has remained at NBC as a producer of long-documentaries and a talking head when big news happens, as it seems to just about every week. Signing off, it seems, is only a state of mind.
- Evan Smith, Texas Monthly Talks, Broadcast 12.14.06