Tom Brokaw

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Tom (Thomas John) Brokaw (born 1940) is a leading journalist and bestselling author. He is the former host of NBC Nightly News, a position he held for twenty-two years. He is also a four time best-selling author. As a journalist, Brokaw has covered all national political campaigns since 1966. He also has produced several award-winning documentaries. On June 29, 2008, Brokaw began serving as moderator of Meet the Press through the 2008 presidential election. [1]

Contents

Personal Life

In 1940, Tom Brokaw was born into the family of Anthony Brokaw, who was a construction worker in Webster, South Dakota. Tom was the first born of three sons. Brokaw's mother worked as a clerk at a local post office. As a young child, Brokaw was fascinated with television; on election nights he'd stay awake until one A.M. to see the results. In high school, he struggled with his studies; his guidance counselor told him to drop out and take a break, and Brokaw took the advice. After high school, Brokaw was admitted to the University of South Dakota. Although he at first struggled, he soon got on track in his studies and earned a degree in Political Science. In 1962, Brokaw married Meredith Auld, the daughter of a doctor. The couple has three children, Jennifer, Andrea, and Sarah[2] . He currently resides in New York and Montana.

Television Career

Brokaw had a early obsession with politics and reporting, which soon became useful as he worked at a broadcasting station in Sioux City, Iowa. In 1962 after gradating from college, Brokaw went to work at another broadcast news station, KNTV, in Omaha, Nebraska. Here Brokaw was offered a salary of $90 a week, but he refused the offer and asked for a salary of $100, which was accepted by the station[3]. Brokaw later stated that one of his reasons for joining the news industry was his desire to travel. Brokaw's love for politics came into play in his new job, as he served as the "political junkie" for the network. As the civil rights movement began to take hold, another opportunity opened up for the young reporter: Brokaw moved to Atlanta, Georgia, to cover the movement in 1965. During this time he was able to cover Martin Luther King, while serving as news editor and anchor of the 11:00 news for the Georgia station, KMTV. Coincidentally,the future anchor of CBS News, Dan Rather, was also covering the civil rights movement during this same period for CBS.

NBC became impressed with Brokaw's work at KMTV, and after only one year at his new job, Brokaw was off to work for NBC as an anchor at their Los Angeles station in 1966. Although he took the job after twice turning down the offer, Brokaw was not impressed with his new assignment; he had hoped to get a job as a correspondent in Washington D.C. [4]. In California, Brokaw had the opportunity to cover Ronald Reagan's campaign for governor of California. In 1968, Brokaw was promoted to the position of NBC's White House correspondent; here he covered the Watergate investigation. During his time as White House correspondent he competed with Dan Rather, who was also now a White House correspondent for CBS. In 1976 Brokaw covered the election primaries, national conventions, and election night in the race between Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale. He also served as anchor of NBC's Saturday Night News. In the show's 24th season, Brokaw became host of NBC's Today show, where he had the opportunity to cover Ronald Reagan’s campaign for president in 1980, and also had the opportunity to interview Mikhail Gorbachev in the Kremlin, which earned Brokaw an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award [5].

1981-2000

Brokaw later stated that the transition from the role of White House correspondent to Today show host was difficult, because Today was less of a 'hard news' platform[6].. Brokaw said that the best part of the job with Today was having the opportunity to travel. Brokaw's job at Today lasted until NBC began looking for a new anchor to work with Roger Mudd.NBC hoped to bring back the success that NBC CO-anchors, David Brinkley and Chet Huntley, had brought with their top rated nightly news program, The Huntley-Brinkley Report. ABC was interested in Brokaw as their new news anchor and the two began to discuss options. Brokaw was almost sure about working at ABC when NBC picked Brokaw as their new Nightly News co-anchor in 1982.[7] The co-broadcast did not work and NBC made Brokaw the sole anchor in 1983, the same year reporter Peter Jennings reclaimed the job as the anchor of ABC's Nightly News. The year before, Dan Rather had replaced Walter Cronkite as anchor of CBS News. In 1982 Brokaw was the only anchor to report from the Berlin Wall when it came down. He also covered the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, and later was the first to broadcast from the site of the TWA Flight 800 crash[8]. Brokaw wrote his first book in 1998, which became a best seller. In addition to his role as anchor at Nightly News, Brokaw also created some reports for 60 Minutes and appeared in a nighttime news show with Katie Couric called "Now with Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric."

2000-2007

Brokaw covered the attacks on September 11th, 2001 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He traveled to both Afghanistan, to witness the NATO's struggle against Al-Qaeda, and later to Iraq to witness the new elections after the fall of Saddam Hussein. In 2004, the 60th Anniversary of D-Day, he was the only anchor to report from Normandy. He also did exclusive interviews with President George W. Bush and former French President Jacques Chirac during this trip. While anchor of the network's main news show, Brokaw also wrote books documenting the so-called "Greatest Generation." He also helped in the production of documentaries covering a wide variety of areas. On December 1st, 2004, at the age of 64 and after more then 21 years as anchor, Brokaw stepped down from NBC Nightly News and was replaced by Brian Williams. NBC Nightly News remained a steady first for the majority of Brokaw's tenure as anchor with an average of ten million viewers[9]. Brokaw continues work with NBC News, and plans on continuing to do so for the next ten years. He occasionally appears on Nightly news, MSNBC, and documentaries that he produces.

2008

In his first Sunday as interim host, Tom Brokaw suggested he would lean strongly to the left in 2008. [10]

Books

Brokaw's first book, The Greatest Generation, was released in 1998, and it instantly became a best seller. The 432-page book documented the generation of people that lived through the depression and the Second World War. Brokaw was inspired to write the book after he went to cover the fiftieth anniversary of the invasion of Normandy for NBC. Here, while talking to veterans, and walking the beach he had a "life changing experience," as he stated later[11]. Brokaw was so encouraged by the letter he received regarding his first book that he decided to right a sequel. In 1999 he began work on his next best seller, The Greatest Generation Speaks. This book included letter written by people living in the period, including, eyewitness account of the dropping of the atomic bomb and others. Brokaw released his third book, An Album of Memories, in 2001. This trilogy was also a book filled with letters documenting the "the greatest generation society has ever produced,” as he stated. His last book, A Long Way from Home, documented his own life and five-decade career as a broadcast journalist. A Long Way from Home, was Brokaw's fourth straight bestselling book.

Film

In addition to Brokaw's work for NBC as a newscaster, he has also created documentaries series for the organization. In 1989, Brokaw was awarded his first Peabody Award for To Be An American, a documentary about the history of the American people. Brokaw's work in Georgia during the civil rights movement came in handy when in 1997 he produced Why Can't We Live Together, a documentary about racial separation in America's suburbs. He won an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism for the documentary. After September 11, 2001, Brokaw began work on another documentary: in 2003 he released, America Remembers: 9/11 Air Traffic Controllers. This documentary, which later won an Emmy for Outstanding Interview, consisted of interviews that Brokaw had done with twenty air traffic controllers who dealt with the four hijacked planes. Brokaw examined Affirmative Action in a documentary he released in 2004, Tom Brokaw Reports: A Question of Fairness. This documentary won numerous awards including the Peabody award. In 2005, after giving up his post as anchor, Brokaw returned to prime time television with an hour-long documentary, Tom Brokaw Reports: The Long War. This documentary examined the United States war against terrorism after the September 11th attacks. In the documentaries creation Brokaw traveled the world – from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, France and Washington D.C. - to interview intelligence experts, world leaders and those personally affected by the attacks. Brokaw again was able to use his past experience as a journalist in his creation of another documentary, The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate's Deep Throat, in September 2005. In December 2005, Brokaw received praise for his new hour long documentary, Tom Brokaw Reports: To War and Back, which documented a wounded soldiers arrival back home[12].

Criticism

Some media newsroom insiders have questioned Tom Brokaw's objectivity, claiming that some of his past reporting includes a liberal slant. Much of the perceived bias in the mainstream media was blamed on Brokaw because of the influence he had with NBC, which led in network news ratings. Bernard Goldberg, a employee for CBS News for thirty years, stated that all of the main networks, including NBC, showed significant bias against conservatives[13]. Goldberg recorded his findings in a book entitled, “Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distorts the News.” In response to critics, Brokaw stated the he does not believe that the news media was biased [14].

Clinton Administration

During a June 1996 Press Club Meeting, Brokaw said that the media were being tough on President Bill Clinton, whose administration was being investigated for allegedly leaking secret grand jury information to the New York Times[15]. Brokaw’s claim was shown to be false as the network surprisingly ignored the investigation. Critics claim that Brokaw was trying to protect the president from bad publicity. During the 1994 election, Brokaw claimed that the Republicans' Contract with America, “is long on promises, but short on sound premises." When the Republicans came to power in Congress, Brokaw was extremely tough in an interview with new House leader, Newt Gingrich. He later claimed that the media was getting too mixed up with conservative members of congress by paying attention to stories like “Whitewater and Paula Jones.”[16]

Iraq War

In January of 2007 Brokaw attacked the United States actions in Iraq, stating, “And a lot of families, and I think a lot of people who are raising their hands to join the armed services are wondering 'I'm giving my life for that?.'”[17] In an interview, Brokaw claimed that the White House is, “in its own bunker at the moment."[18] He said that the world is saying to the United States, “you got yourself into it, you find a way out of it.” ."[19] Brokaw also challenged President Bush credibility on Iraq, and said that no one was suggesting of cutting and running from Iraq, despite Bill Murtha’s and Nancy Pelosi’s comments to the contrary[20]. News Buster, a media watchdog organization, wrote that, “The former Nightly News anchor seems to align himself with the "Bush lied, people died" crowd.”[21]

Abu Ghraib Prison Abuse

After the abuses by the some members of the military at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Brokaw was criticized for unbalanced coverage of the situation. Nightly News reported heavily on the abuse at Abu Ghraib, while failing to mention the recently-discovered abuses carried out by former dictator Saddam Hussein. Between 2003 and 2004, Nightly News showed 58 prison abuse stories, while only broadcasting five reports on Saddam’s recently-discovered mass graves[22].

References

  1. Brokaw to moderate 'Meet the Press', Meet the Press, MSNBC.com
  2. Diane Negra, The Museum of Broadcasting Communications, “Tom Brokaw,” http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/B/htmlB/brokawtom/brokawtom.htm
  3. Interview with Today Show, 2004, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6521696/
  4. Interview with Today Show, 2004, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6521696/
  5. MSNBC, “Tom Brokaw,” http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4364148/
  6. Interview with Today Show, 2004, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6521696/
  7. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6628060/
  8. http://www.usd.edu/extraordinary/brokaw.cfm
  9. http://www.tv.com/tom-brokaw/person/117017/biography.html
  10. Brokaw Brings Strong Liberal Tilt to 'Meet The Press', Tim Graham, NewsBusters, July 1, 2008
  11. Random House Books, Tom Brokaw, http://www.randomhouse.com/features/brokaw/books_greatest.html
  12. MSNBC, “The War and Back, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10402820/
  13. PBS, “Skewing the News”,http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/media/jan-june02/bias_1-24.html
  14. Colombia Journalism Review, 2004, http://cjrarchives.org/issues/2004/1/QA-Brokaw.asp
  15. http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/stories/1999/02/01/clinton.starr/
  16. http://www.mediaresearch.org/mainsearch/search.html
  17. Mark Finkelstein, News busters ,2007, http://newsbusters.org/node/9909
  18. “Meredith Vieira and Tom Brokaw Question Bush's 'Crediblity'”,2007, http://newsbusters.org/taxonomy/term/192
  19. “Meredith Vieira and Tom Brokaw Question Bush's 'Crediblity'”,2007, http://newsbusters.org/taxonomy/term/192
  20. http://newsbusters.org/node/3852
  21. Geoffrey” 2007, http://newsbusters.org/taxonomy/term/192
  22. Media Research Center, http://www.mrc.org/realitycheck/2004/fax20040512.asp

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