Brokaw, Tom 1940-

views updated Jun 08 2018

Brokaw, Tom 1940-


Full name, Thomas John Brokaw; born February 6, 1940, in Webster, SD; son of Anthony Orville "Red" (a government worker and construction foreman) and Eugenia "Jean" (a post office clerk and in sales; maiden name, Conley) Brokaw; married Meredith Lynn Auld (a developer and proprietor of a chain of toy stores and a writer), August 17, 1962; children: Jennifer Jean (a doctor), Andrea Brooks (a music producer), Sarah Auld (a social worker). Education: University of South Dakota, B.A., political science, 1962; also attended the University of Iowa. Avocational Interests: Jogging, backpacking, mountain climbing, horseback riding, skiing, tennis, softball, fishing, jazz, spending time at his Montana ranch.


Television journalist. KYNT, disc jockey, beginning c. 1955; WNEX, Yankton, SD, newscaster; KTIV, Sioux City, IA, newscaster, weatherman, and staff announcer, 1960-62; KMTV, Omaha, NE, morning news editor, 1962-65; WSB, Atlanta, GA, news anchor and editor, 1965-66; KNBC, Los Angeles, reporter and news anchor, 1966-73; NBC, White House correspondent and Saturday evening news anchor, 1973-76, anchor of and contributor to various programs, 1976—. Yale University, New Haven, CT, lecturer on television news, 1978-79; anchored coverage of political conventions and other programs; appeared in chat room sessions on American Online. Advisory committee member, Gannett Journalism Center; member of the board of advisors, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; trustee of Columbia University and the University of South Dakota Foundation; and member of the board of trustees, Norton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena, CA. Advisor of the Asia Society. Commencement speaker for colleges and universities and a lecturer. Also worked in a clothing store and as a tour guide.


American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (director, 1968-72), Sierra Club, Sigma Delta Chi.

Awards, Honors:

Alfred du Pont-Columbia University Award, 1987, for A Conversation with Mikhail S. Gorbachev; Emmy Award, outstanding interview/interviewer, 1989, for "Ronald Reagan … An American Success," broadcast on NBC Nightly News; Emmy awards, outstanding instant coverage of a single news story, 1989 and 1993, for NBC Nightly News; National Headliner Award, National Conference of Christians and Jews, 1990; Dennis Kauff Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism, Boston University, 1995; Lowell Thomas Award, Marist College, 1995; inducted into Television Hall of Fame, 1997; Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism, University of Missouri Columbia School of Journalism, 1997; Tom Brokaw Scholarship Program established in his name, NBC, for Brokaw's thirty years with the network, 1997; Television Award (with Craig Leake), documentary/current events, Writers Guild of America, 1998, for "Why Can't We Live Together?" broadcast on Dateline NBC; Fred Friendly First Amendment Award, 1998, for "consistent devotion to freedom of speech and the principles embodied in the first amendment"; American Legion Award, 1998, for work in the communications field; President's Award, Citizens Scholarship Foundation of America, 1998, for "his devotion to helping young people through scholarships"; "Tex" McCrary Excellence in Journalism Award, Congressional Medal of Honor Society, 1999; Television Award nomination (with Leake and Andrea Malin), Writers Guild of America, 2000, for "The Greatest Generation," broadcast on Dateline NBC; TV Guide Award nominations, favorite news personality, 2000, and news person of the year, 2001; named an "American hero" by Men's Journal, 2001, for journalistic work; Fourth Estate Award for Lifetime Achievement, National Press Club, 2003; Four Medals of Freedom, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, 2005; George Foster Peabody Broadcasting Award, Henry W. Grady School of Journalism, University of Georgia, for the report "To Be an American"; other Emmy awards; Golden Mike Award, Radio and Television News Association of Southern California; Joseph M. Quinn Award for Journalistic Excellence and Distinction. Alumni Achievement Award, University of South Dakota; honorary degrees from Duke University, 1991, University of Notre Dame, 1993, Fairfield University, 1997; honorary L.H.D., University of South Dakota; also received honorary degrees from Boston College, Emerson College, Hofstra University, Simpson College, Syracuse University, University of Pennsylvania, and Washington University (St. Louis).


Film Appearances:

Interviewer, Survival of Spaceship Earth, 1972.

Dawn's Early Light: Ralph McGill and the Segregated South, 1988.

Himself in archival footage, The Panama Deception (documentary).

Empowerment Project, 1992.

The Gate of Heavenly Peace, 1996.

Commentator, On Common Ground, Columbia, 2001.

Narrator, Vertical Frontier (documentary), Pelton Pictures, 2002.

(Uncredited)) The Thing About My Folks, Picturehouse Entertainment, 2005.

Himself, Last Best Chance, 2005.

Himself, There and Back Again (documentary short), 2006.

Himself, TV Junkie: Faces of Addiction (documentary), Deep Ellum Pictures, 2007.

Himself, An Unlikely Weapon (documentary), 2008.

Film Work:

Consulting producer, Toots (documentary), Menemsha Films, 2006.

Television Appearances; Series:

Anchor, NBC Nightly News, Weekend Edition, NBC, 1973.

Anchor, Saturday Night News, New York City station, 1973-76.

Host (with others), Today (also known as NBC News Today and The Today Show), NBC, 1976-82.

Anchor, NBC Nightly News (also known as NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw), NBC, 1982-2005.

Anchor, Expose, NBC, 1990.

Anchor, The Brokaw Report, NBC, 1992-93.

Anchor, Now (also known as Now with Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric), NBC, 1993-94.

Digital Age, 1994.

Contributing anchor, Dateline NBC (also known as Dateline), NBC, 1994—.

InterNight, MSNBC, 1996.

Tom Brokaw Reports, NBC, 2005—.

Host, Meet the Press, NBC, 2008.

Television Appearances; Movies:

Himself, Barbarians at the Gate, HBO, 1993.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Host and narrator, NBC Reports: To Be a Doctor, NBC, 1980.

TV Guide 1980: The Year in Review, NBC, 1981.

NBC Reports: Labor in the Promised Land, NBC, 1982.

Presenter and interviewer, D-Day Plus 40 Years (documentary), 1984.

NBC Reports: Iacocca—An American Profile, NBC, 1984.

Host, Christmas in Washington, NBC, 1985.

Today at Night, Volume II, NBC, 1986.

Panelist, The Manipulators: Iron Curtain-Stone Wall-Party Line, ABC, 1986.

Anchor, NBC News Statue of Liberty Special, NBC, 1986.

Moderator, Life, Death and AIDS, NBC, 1986.

Anchor, Election Night: Decision '86, NBC, 1986.

Host, Cocaine Country, NBC, 1986.

NBC 60th Anniversary Celebration, NBC, 1986.

Men, Women, Sex & AIDS (also known as NBC News Special Report: Men, Women, Sex & AIDS), NBC, 1987.

Anchor and correspondent, Wall Street: Money, Greed and Power, NBC, 1987.

Election 1987, BBC, 1987.

Correspondent, To Be a Teacher, 1987.

Host and moderator, The Arms, the Men, the Money, NBC, 1987.

Interviewer, A Conversation with Mikhail S. Gorbachev, 1987.

"Today" at 35, NBC, 1987.

Anchor, The Baby Business, NBC, 1987.

Correspondent, Six Days Plus 20 Years: A Dream Is Dying, NBC, 1987.

Anchor, Fear, Frustration and Flying, NBC, 1987.

Anchor, Crime, Punishment and Kids, NBC, 1987.

Moderator, America's Future: A Presidential Debate, NBC, 1987.

Anchor, A Trillion for Defense: What Have We Bought?, NBC, 1987.

Master of Ceremonies, The Alfred I. DuPont/Columbia University Awards, PBS, 1987.

Correspondent, Home Street Home, NBC, 1988.

Anchor, JFK—That Day in November, NBC, 1988.

Anchor, Decision '88, NBC, 1988.

Anchor, Campaign Countdown: The Great Lakes Battleground, NBC, 1988.

Anchor, Campaign Countdown: The California Battleground, NBC, 1988.

Anchor, Campaign Countdown: Is This Any Way to Elect a President?, NBC, 1988.

Off Your Duff, 1989.

(Uncredited) Saturday Night Live: 15th Anniversary, NBC, 1989.

Host, The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, PBS, 1989.

Host, To Be an American, NBC, 1989.

The Television Academy Hall of Fame, Fox, 1989.

Host, The Eighties, NBC, 1989.

Anchor, The Abortion Dilemma: Rights and Lives, NBC, 1989.

Interviewer, Ronald Reagan: An American Success, NBC, 1989.

Anchor, Presidential Inauguration, NBC, 1989.

Anchor and narrator, Gangs, Cops & Drugs, NBC, 1989.

Anchor, Black Athletes—Fact and Fiction, NBC, 1989.

NBC News: Houston Homicide, NBC, 1990.

Host, The Tunnel Under the Wall, Arts and Entertainment, 1990.

Host, The New Hollywood, NBC, 1990.

Mary Hart Presents: Power in the Public Eye, syndicated, 1990.

Anchor, Homicide Squad, NBC, 1990.

Edward R. Murrow: This Reporter, PBS, 1990.

Anchor, A Day in the Life of the White House, NBC, 1990.

2 Years Later, NBC, 1990.

Anchor, 1990: Living on the Edge, NBC, 1990.

Moderator, The Democrats: A Presidential Debate, NBC, 1991.

Host, Panasonic Presents: 25th Anniversary Gala at the Met, pay per view, 1991.

Dangerous Assignments, PBS, 1991.

Host, Crisis in the Persian Gulf, NBC, 1991.

Brokaw Reports: 58 Days, NBC, 1992.

News anchor, NBC News Decision 92 Republican Convention (also known as Decision '92: The Republican National Convention), NBC, 1992.

"Today" at 40, NBC, 1992.

Host, The Metropolitan Opera Silver Anniversary, PBS, 1992.

The Class of the 20th Century, Arts and Entertainment, 1992.

Families in Crisis, NBC, 1992.

Democracy in Action, PBS, 1992.

Anchor, Decision '92: The Democratic National Convention, NBC, 1992.

Host, America's Schools—Pass or Fail?, NBC, 1992.

America's Health Care—Going Broke in Style, NBC, 1992.

Anchor, America the Violent, NBC, 1992.

Host, 58 Days, NBC, 1992.

Host, The Lost Generation, NBC, 1993.

Host, The Great Ones: The National Sports Awards, NBC, 1993.

Anchor, Robert F. Kennedy: The Man, the Myth and the Memories, NBC, 1993.

Anchor, Inaugural '93, NBC, 1993.

Anchor, Immigration—The Good, the Bad, the Illegal, NBC, 1993.

From Hope to History, NBC, 1993.

Anchor, A Day at the White House, NBC, 1993.

Anchor, To Your Health, NBC, 1994.

Host, The Alfred I. DuPont/Columbia University Awards in Broadcast Journalism, PBS, 1994.

Anchor, V-E Day: A Nation Remembers, NBC, 1995.

Interviewer and correspondent, Tycoon, NBC, 1995.

Why America Hates the Press, PBS, 1996.

Interviewee, Nicols and May—Take Two, PBS, 1996.

Election Year Survival Guide, PBS, 1996.

Anchor, Decision '96: The Republican National Convention, NBC and PBS, 1996.

Anchor, Decision '96: The Democratic National Convention, NBC and PBS, 1996.

Anchor, Decision '96 Election Night, NBC, 1996.

50 Years of Television: A Celebration of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Golden Anniversary, HBO, 1997.

Presenter of introduction, NBC White Paper: The Age of Kennedy—Part I, The Early Years (also known as NBC White Papers: The Kennedy Era—The Early Years), NBC, 1997.

Hollywood and the News, AMC, 1997.

Host and correspondent, Tom Brokaw Reports: The Greatest Generation, NBC, 1999.

Alis die Mauer fiel. 50 Stunden, die die Welt veranderten (also known as When the Wall Came Tumbling Down: 50 Hours that Changed the World), 1999.

Radio City Music Hall's Grand Re-Opening Gala, NBC, 1999.

Narrator, Window to the Universe, PBS, 2000.

Moderator, Up in Arms: What Should America Do?, MSNBC, 2000.

The Remarkable 20th Century, PBS, 2000.

Grand Marshall, The 112th Annual Tournament of Roses Parade, ABC, NBC, and CBS, 2000.

Moderator, Summit in Silicon Valley, MSNBC, 2000.

Lowell Thomas: Man About the World, Arts and Entertainment, 2000.

Kids Pick the Issues, Nickelodeon, 2000.

"The Greatest Generation," HistoryCENTER, History Channel, 2000.

Breaking the News (documentary), 2001.

Essence Awards (also known as The 2001 Essence Awards), Fox, 2001.

Host, Pearl Harbor: Legacy of Attack, NBC and National Geographic Channel, 2001.

Breaking the News, CBS, 2001.

Correspondent and interviewer, Father's Day: Now and Forever, NBC, 2001.

Intimate Portrait: Maria Shriver, Lifetime, 2001.

Brokaw, Ballard, Ambrose: Reflections on War, National Geographic Channel, 2001.

Anchor, The Bush White House: Inside the Real West Wing, NBC, 2002.

Host, Price for Peace, NBC, 2002.

Host, NBC 75th Anniversary Special, NBC, 2002.

9/11 2002 Prime Time Concert for America, NBC, 2002.

Journalists: Killed in the Line of Duty, Trio, 2003.

Host, Commander-in-Chief: Inside the White House at War, NBC, 2003.

A Questions of Fairness: Reported by Tom Brokaw, NBC, 2003.

The 7th Annual Prism Awards, FX Channel, 2003.

Host, Without Fear or Favor: The Best in Broadcast Journalism, 2004.

World War II Memorial Dedication, History Channel, 2004.

Beyond the Medal of Honor, PBS, 2004.

Election Night on Democracy Plaza, 2004.

How's Your News?: On the Campaign Trail, Trio, 2004.

Host, Desperate Days in Blue John Canyon, NBC, 2004.

Science of Supervolcanoes, Discovery Channel, 2005.

The 57th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, CBS, 2005.

The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts, CBS, 2005.

Cast host, Trapped in a Canyon: The Aron Ralston Story, The Learning Channel, 2005.

Host, Tom Brokaw Reports: To War and Back, NBC, 2005.

Host, Tom Brokaw Reports: The Long War, NBC, 2005.

Host, The Secret Man: The Story of Washington's Deep Throat, NBC, 2005.

Presenter, The 28th Annual Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts, CBS, 2005.

Host, In God They Trust: Reported by Tom Brokaw, NBC, 2005.

The 57th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, CBS, 2005.

Host, Tom Brokaw Reports: In the Shadow of the American Dream, NBC, 2006.

Host, Global Warming: What You Need to Know, Discovery Channel, 2006.

Narrator, Paul Conrad: Drawing Fire, PBS, 2006.

"Star Wars": The Legacy Revealed, History Channel, 2007.

Host, 1968 with Tom Brokaw (documentary), History Channel, 2007.

Host, King (documentary), History Channel, 2008.

Baseball's Golden Age, Fox Sports, 2008.

Anchor, Remembering Tim Russert, NBC, 2008.

Television Appearances; Pilots:

Himself, Tanner on Tanner, Sundance, 2004.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Anchor, First Tuesday, NBC, 1971.

"To Be a Teacher," NBC White Paper, NBC, 1987.

"Edward R. Murrow: This Reporter," American Masters, PBS, 1988.

"To Be An American," NBC White Paper, NBC, 1989.

Late Night with David Letterman, NBC, 1991, 1993.

The Late Show with David Letterman (also known as Letterman and The Late Show), CBS, 1993, 1997, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008.

"Take Two: Mike Nichols and Elaine May," American Masters, PBS, 1996.

The Rosie O'Donnell Show, syndicated, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002.

Late Night With Conan O'Brien, NBC, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008.

The View, ABC, 1999, 2008.

"Ted Williams," ESPN SportsCentury, ESPN, 2000.

"Joe Louis," ESPN SportsCentury, ESPN, 2000.

"Jackie Robinson," ESPN SportsCentury, ESPN, 2001.

The Daily Show (also known as A Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Jon Stewart, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Global Edition), Comedy Central, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2008.

On the Record with Bob Costas, HBO, 2003.

Larry King Live, CNN, 2003, 2005, 2007.

The Jane Pauley Show, NBC, 2004.

Hardball with Chris Matthews, CNBC, 2004, 2005, 2006.

Panelist, Costas Now, HBO, 2005.

Meet the Press (also known as Meet the Press with Tim Russert), NBC, 2005.

The Colbert Report, Comedy Central, 2006.

Correspondent, Today (also known as NBC News Today and The Today Show), NBC, 2006.

"A Gala Night at Alice Tully Hall," Live from Lincoln Center (also known as Great Performances: Live from Lincoln Center), PBS, 2007.

Live with Regis & Kelly, syndicated, 2007.

Tavis Smiley, PBS, 2007.

Ellen: The Ellen DeGeneres Show, syndicated, 2007.

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, NBC, 2008.

Real Time with Bill Maher, HBO, 2008.

Entertainment Tonight (also known as E.T.), syndicated, 2008.

Television Work; Series:

Coproducer, Expose, 1990.

Also worked as managing editor, NBC Nightly News, NBC, 1983.

Television Work; Episodic:

Managing editor, "To Be a Teacher," NBC White Paper, NBC, 1987.

Radio Appearances:

Host of a brief daily feature broadcast on Westwood One.


Taped Readings:

The Greatest Generation, 1999.

The Greatest Generation Speaks, Random House, 2000.


Television Series:

Expose, NBC, 1990.

Dateline NBC (also known as Dateline), NBC, 1994—.

Television Specials:

NBC Reports: The Changing West, Reflections on the Stillwater, NBC, 1981.

NBC Reports: Labor in the Promised Land, NBC, 1982.

NBC Reports: Iacocca—An American Profile, NBC, 1984.

The Arms, the Men, the Money, 1987.

Men, Women, Sex & AIDS (also known as NBC News Special Report: Men, Women, Sex & AIDS), NBC, 1987.

Home Street Home, NBC, 1988.

The Eighties, NBC, 1989.

The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award on PBS, 1989.

NBC News: Houston Homicide, NBC, 1990.

The New Hollywood, NBC, 1990.

A Day in the Life of the White House, NBC, 1990.

Families in Crisis, NBC, 1992.

America's Schools—Pass or Fail?, NBC, 1992.

America the Violent, NBC, 1992.

Brokaw Reports: 58 Days, NBC, 1992.

Robert F. Kennedy: The Man, the Myth and the Memories, NBC, 1993.

Tycoon, NBC, 1995.

Tom Brokaw Reports: The Greatest Generation, NBC, 1999.

Father's Day: Now and Forever, NBC, 2001.

Television Episodes:

"To Be a Teacher," NBC White Paper, NBC, 1987.

"To Be an American," NBC White Paper, NBC, 1989.


Author of introduction, The Best of Photojournalism, Volume 5: People, Places, and Events of 1979, University of Missouri Press, 1980.

The Greatest Generation, Random House, 1998.

The Greatest Generation Speaks, Random House, 2000.

An Album of Memories: Personal Histories from the Greatest Generation, Random House, 2001.

A Long Way from Home: Growing Up in the American Heartland, Random House, 2002.

Boom! Voices of the Sixties: Personal Recollections of the '60s & Today, Random House, 2007.

Contributor to Backpacker, Diversions, Family Weekly, Life, Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, New York Daily News, New York Times, Outside, Sports Illustrated, and the Washington Post.



Encyclopedia of World Biography Supplement, Vol. 25, Thomson Gale, 2005.

Newsmakers 2000, Issue 3, Gale Group, 2000.

St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, St. James Press, 2000.


Broadcasting & Cable, October 25, 2004, p. 30.

Good Housekeeping, January, 2003, p. 93.

St. Petersburg Times (St. Petersburg, FL), May 24, 2004, p. 1E.

USA Today, December 2, 2004, p. 3D; June 23, 2008, p. 2D.

Brokaw, Tom

views updated May 18 2018

Tom Brokaw

American television journalist Tom Brokaw (born 1940) retired from his NBC Nightly News broadcast in December of 2004 after 22 years at the anchor desk. One of a new generation of television newscasters on the three national networks, Brokaw weathered a sea of change during his on–air tenure, taking over at a time when cable news organizations were still in their infancy and the Internet did not even exist, let alone serve as a daily source of news for millions. His final send–off, delivered in his reassuring, trademark baritone, was said to mark the end of an era.

Brokaw exuded an Everyman demeanor that owed much to his modest South Dakota upbringing. He was born in 1940, the first of three sons in a family headed by Anthony "Red" Brokaw, a construction worker, and mother Eugenia, who spent much of her working life as a clerk at the local post office near the Brokaw home in Yankton. After high school, the future network star enrolled at the University of South Dakota, but proved a less than outstanding student at first. As he confessed years later in a New York Times op–ed piece, "I was so adrift as a freshman and sophomore that my adviser recommended I drop out for a spell and try to find my bearings. It worked," Brokaw recalled. "After less than a semester in the hardscrabble, working class world of those without college degrees, I was back on campus, humbled and prepared to change course."

Drawn to Journalism on Election Night

Brokaw declared political science as his major, but was fascinated by the relatively new medium of television. In November of 1960, he told San Jose Mercury News writer Charlie McCollum, "I was at my parents' home between jobs, and I watched the election night with Chet Huntley and David Brinkley that went until 1 o'clock in the morning. At the end of that, I thought, 'That's something that I'd like to do, to become a network correspondent.' " While still in college, he found a job at KTIV, a Sioux City, Iowa, station, and after graduating from the University of South Dakota in 1962, he headed to KMTV in Omaha, Nebraska, to serve as its morning news editor. By 1965, he had moved on to WSB–TV in Atlanta, Georgia, where he was a news editor and anchor.

Atlanta in 1965 was a hotbed of civil–rights stories, many of them fast–breaking and with the potential to turn violent. The national networks did not have many personnel on the ground there, so when trouble in Georgia or a nearby state broke out, Brokaw often volunteered to cover the story immediately. NBC executives took note of his reporting from dangerous confrontations between civil–rights protesters and local law–enforcement authorities, and he was offered a major market job—at NBC's Los Angeles affiliate, KNBC. Brokaw continued to leave the newsroom to cover top stories, such as campus anti–war riots, a racially motivated conflagration in the Watts section of Los Angeles, and the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. He advanced to NBC's national news division in 1973.

Once again, Brokaw rose to the challenges of the times: he was assigned to the White House beat just as the administration of President Richard M. Nixon was about to implode due to the Watergate break–in scandal and subsequent cover–up. He remained there until 1976, when he took over as co–host of NBC's weekday morning staple, Today. He helped keep the show a contender in the ratings, though it faced stiff competition from Charles Kuralt's long–running CBS show and an upstart on the ABC network called Good Morning America.

Remained Loyal to Network

A rising star in network news, Brokaw was soon courted by both CBS and ABC, but signed a new contract with NBC in July of 1981 that promised an anchor position on the nightly newscast, NBC Nightly News. After veteran journalist John Chancellor retired, Brokaw joined a senior NBC journalist, Roger Mudd, as the new co–anchor of the show in April of 1982. Mudd reported from Washington, while Brokaw helmed the New York desk for the broadcast, but their dual–anchor format seemed to lack the requisite on–air chemistry, and Brokaw took over as sole anchor on September 5, 1983.

Over the next two decades, Brokaw delivered the major news stories of the era, but occasionally returned to the exciting live feed, as in 1989, when he happened to be covering the growing unrest in Berlin, Germany, just as border guards on the East German side of the Berlin Wall opened the gates and began letting East Berliners into the Western zone. The moment marked the beginning of the end of Soviet–controlled Communist rule across Eastern Europe. "I had gone two days earlier because things were quiet here and there seemed to be a fair degree of turmoil going on over there. I thought I could go into East Berlin and do some reporting," he recalled in an interview with Broadcasting & Cable's Mark Lasswell. "So there I was that night, midnight Berlin time, preparing to go on the air, looking around and knowing that I'm the only one with live capability . . . already the hammers and chisels were out as they began to chip away at it. And I thought to myself, 'Just do not screw this one up. This is a big deal.' "

"We Have an Omelet."

Brokaw also landed some notable coups over the years, including a historic 1987 interview with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Over the next decade, he helped NBC maintain a ratings lead in the all–important evening–news slot—it led the networks after 1997—but the networks' dominance of news stories began to be eclipsed by their cable competition. CNN reportedly offered to double his salary—to about $7 million annually—as his contract neared expiration in 1997, but Brokaw chose to remain with NBC. He was already considering retirement when, on Election Night of 2000, he was one of the first television journalists to report the election results, based on exit polls. Brokaw called the election for Democratic contender Al Gore, but in the early–morning hours, he and the other network news journalists were forced to retract their previous statements about the outcome of the election. The ensuing controversy over the Florida votes for Gore and his Republican challenger, George W. Bush, endured for weeks. Brokaw and the rest of the veteran journalists involved quickly issued apologies for what was viewed as a rush to judgment. "We don't just have egg on our face," Brokaw said, according to a report in the Washington Post from David Bauder. "We have an omelet."

Brokaw put off his retirement plans after the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. In the round–the–clock news coverage on that day and the following, he was a reassuring presence on the network. NBC led the ratings among the networks, pulling the highest number of prime–time viewers on 9/11 and subsequent days. "People called and said, 'You were so important to us; I never thought of you as a father–figure before,' " Brokaw said in an interview with New York Times writer Bill Carter about that tragic week. "And I said, 'I was important to you because I was giving you reliable information.' That's what we do." Just a month after the 9/11 attacks, Brokaw had become part of a news story himself when envelopes containing anthrax were mailed to the offices of several news organizations. His assistant opened one envelope and contracted a cutaneous version of the biohazard threat; Brokaw had actually handled that envelope as well, but did not contract anthrax. The assistant recovered, but the experience shook Brokaw.

First of Triumvirate to Depart

Brokaw and NBC announced in 2002 that he would retire from the NBC Nightly News in 2004. Later, the network announced that he would be succeeded by former MSNBC journalist Brian Williams, who had often been termed the younger version of Brokaw. Just a week before his last newscast, Brokaw's rival at CBS, Dan Rather, announced he was retiring as well in a few months. Only Peter Jennings, anchor of ABC's World News Tonight since 1983, remained as the final member of the triumvirate known as the second generation of news anchors who replaced Walter Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley, and the first generation of veteran journalists of television's early years.

Much had changed in the 22 years since Brokaw took over, and all the networks had lost millions of viewers for the nightly news broadcast that was once the flagship of their respective news divisions. In 1991, the three nightly network newscasts had combined viewing audience of 47 million, but by the time Brokaw retired, that number had sunk to just 28 million. "Unlike Jennings, who is coolly urbane, and Rather, whose down–home folksiness often seems forced, Brokaw . . . comes off night after night as a great American storyteller," noted McCollum in the San Jose Mercury News, "projecting decency and dignity."

Paid Homage to Greatest Generation

The retirement was not a full one: Brokaw was still under contract with NBC to do the occasional special, such as The Greatest Generation Speaks, the 2001 documentary accompanying his bestselling book, The Greatest Generation. Brokaw had been inspired to write the 1998 book after filing stories from Normandy, France, on the regularly marked anniversaries of the 1944 Allied invasion of Europe. A series of interviews from 50 Americans who lived through the Great Depression and World War II years, the book struck a chord with the public and its title became a catchphrase.

Brokaw explained his reasons for writing the book in a 1999 commencement address he gave at the California Institute of Technology. During the economic crisis of the 1930s, he told the graduating seniors, "youngsters quit school to go to work—not to buy a car for themselves or a new video game. They quit to earn enough to help their family get through another week." When America entered World War II in 1941, some 12 million Americans served in uniform either at home or overseas, and life for civilians was drastically altered as well. Brokaw reminded his CalTech audience of just how young these senior citizens were at the time, noting that "at a time in their lives when their days should have been filled with the rewards of starting careers and families, their nights filled with love and innocent adventure, this generation was fighting for survival—theirs and the worlds." Their spirit and their values, he asserted in his book, were the foundation for the postwar economic boom.

Brokaw lives on a 5,000–acre ranch in Montana with his wife Meredith, a former Miss South Dakota whom he wed in 1962. They have three daughters. His last newscast on the NBC Nightly News came on December 1, 2004, and when he thanked viewers for their faith in him over the years, his voice wavered only slightly. "Thanks for all that I have learned from you," he said near the close of the broadcast, according to "That's been my richest reward."


Broadcasting & Cable, October 25, 2004.

Good Housekeeping, January 2003.

Knight–Ridder/Tribune News Service, November 30, 2004.

New Republic, April 23, 1984.

New York Observer, November 8, 2004.

New York Times, July 14, 1981; April 3, 2000; November 5, 2001.

Philadelphia Inquirer, October 15, 2001.

San Jose Mercury News, November 29, 2004.

Time, December 14, 1987; June 2, 1997; December 7, 1998; June 10, 2002; December 6, 2004.

Vital Speeches of the Day, July 15, 1999.

Washington Post, November 8, 2000.


"Tom Brokaw Signs Off 'Nightly News,' ", (December 10, 2004).