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|Memories of VideoDisc - Who's Who in VideoDisc|
Tom Brokaw, host of the NBC Today Show when the CED system was introduced, also hosted the World Trade Center introduction of SelectaVision VHS and the February 25, 1981 closed-circuit TV introduction of RCA SelectaVision VideoDisc.
While "SelectaVision" VideoDisc is being hailed as a technological coup, the manner of its introduction is unprecedented as well. In one of the largest closed-circuit TV meetings ever held, RCA last February introduced the VideoDisc system via satellite to some 14,000 distributors and dealers gathered in 75 cities coast-to-coast.
The presentation, which originated in NBC studio 8-H in New York's Rockefeller Plaza, was a preview of the company's market introduction plans for the system. A live audience of more than 400 attended. Participating were RCA Chairman Edgar H. Griffiths; Executive Vice Presidents Roy Pollack and Herbert Schlosser; and Group Vice President Jack Sauter. Tom Brokaw of NBC's Today Show was host.
"For RCA, this is the third time we have stepped out front in a pioneering introduction," Mr. Griffiths said. "Based on many years of market research, we have projected a U.S. video disc market that in ten years could reach $7.5 billion in retail sales annually."
Mr Pollack was similarly sanguine. "The challenge is the conversion of an exotic, state-of-the-art research prototype into a mass market consumer product," he said. "Our VideoDisc Operations group, supported by the total commitment of RCA, has done just that."
- May/June 1981 Issue of RCA Communicate
The sole anchor of weekday "NBC Nightly News" since 1983, Brokaw has an impressive history of "firsts." He conducted the first exclusive U.S. one-on-one interview with Mikhail Gorbachev, earning an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award. Brokaw was the only anchor to report from the scene the night the Berlin Wall fell. He was the first American anchor to report on human-rights abuses in Tibet and to conduct an interview with the Dalai Lama. In 1995, Brokaw was the first network evening news anchor to report from the site of the Oklahoma City bombing, and in 1996, from the scene of the TWA Flight 800 tragedy. He was the first anchor to find and interview Charlie Trie and Johnny Chung, key figures in the 1997 campaign finance abuse scandal. In 1999, Brokaw traveled to Moscow to conduct the first North American television interview with Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, and that spring, he was the first of the network evening news anchors to travel to Tirana, Albania during the NATO airstrikes in Yugoslavia. In 2000, Brokaw again returned to Moscow for the first American television interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and he served as the first Master of Ceremonies for the opening of the National D-Day Museum, on the 56th anniversary of the Normandy invasion by the Allies.
In addition to "Nightly News," Brokaw anchored The Brokaw Report (1992-93), a series of prime-time specials that examined critical issues facing our nation. He also co-anchored the prime-time news magazine Now with Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric (1993-94). In addition, Brokaw has played an active role in many other prime-time NBC news specials and in-depth reports. In June 1997, he anchored the "Dateline NBC" documentary special, Tom Brokaw Reports: Why Can't We Live Together, which examined the hidden realities of racial separation in America's suburbs. Brokaw earned an Alfred I. duPont- Columbia University Award for excellence in broadcast journalism for this special report.
Brokaw has received numerous awards for his work, including a Peabody for his report entitled "To Be an American." He has also received seven Emmy awards, including one for his "China in Crisis" special report, for his reporting on the 1992 floods in the Midwest and in 1999 for international coverage of the Kosovo conflict. In 1990, he won a National Headliner Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews for advancing the understanding of religion, race and ethnicity. In 1995, he received the Dennis Kauff Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism from Boston University, and the prestigious Lowell Thomas Award from Marist College. In 1997, Brokaw received the Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism and was inducted into Broadcasting and Cable's prestigious TV Hall of Fame. In 1998, Brokaw received the American Legion's top award for distinguished public service in the field of communications. In May 1998, Brokaw was honored with the Fred Friendly First Amendment Award, a tribute to those "individuals whose broadcast career reflects a consistent devotion to freedom of speech and the principles embodied in the First Amendment." In 1999, he received the Congressional Medal of Honor Society's "Tex" McCrary Excellence in Journalism Award. In the spring of 2001, Brokaw was honored by Men's Journal as an "American Hero" for his extraordinary achievement in journalism.
Complementing his distinguished broadcast journalism career, Brokaw has written articles, essays and commentary for several publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Life, Outside and Interview.
In December 1998, Brokaw wrote his first book, now a bestseller, "The Greatest Generation," an exquisitely written account of the generation of Americans born in the 1920s who came of age during the Great Depression, fought in the Second World War, and went on to build America. "The Greatest Generation" was also the subject of an NBC News documentary special that aired in January 1999.
Inspired by the avalanche of mail Brokaw received from "The Greatest Generation," a second book, "The Greatest Generation Speaks" was published on December 7, 1999. In this book, the families now speak for themselves through their powerful letters and Brokaw reflects on why their lives of difficulty and triumph continue to strike such a deep cord in Americans today.
In May 2001, Brokaw will publish his third book, "An Album of Memories." The book is a family album of stories, reflections, memorabilia and photographs that pay tribute to the men and women of the Greatest Generation. In this new book, Brokaw shares the remarkable experiences of ordinary people during historic moments like Guadalcanal, the D-Day invasion, the Battle of the Bulge and Midway.
Brokaw has received honorary degrees from a number of universities, including Notre Dame, Duke University, Washington University in St. Louis, Boston College, the University of Pennsylvania and Fairfield University. He is on the board of trustees of the University of South Dakota, his alma mater, the Norton Simon Museum, and the American Museum of Natural History. He also serves on the Howard University School of Communications Board of Visitors.
In 1997, NBC established the Tom Brokaw Scholarship Program in commemoration of Brokaw's 30 years of service to NBC News. The Scholarship Program benefits the children of full-time NBC News employees who plan to pursue higher education. In 1998, Brokaw received the Citizens' Scholarship Foundation of America's President's Award in recognition of his "devotion to helping young people through scholarships."
Brokaw joined NBC News in 1966, reporting from California and anchoring for KNBC, the NBC television station in Los Angeles. From 1973 to 1976 he was NBC's White House correspondent, and from 1976 to 1981, he anchored NBC News' "Today." An acclaimed political reporter, Brokaw has covered every presidential election since 1968. Brokaw began his career in journalism after graduating from the University of South Dakota in 1962 at KMTV, Omaha. In 1965 he anchored the late-evening news on WSB-TV in Atlanta.
- 2001 NBC Corporate Biography
NEW YORK - There's something to be said about going out on top, seeing that last jump shot swish through the net or the final profit report stuffed with extra zeros.
Tom Brokaw achieves the TV equivalent when he steps down as anchor of NBC's "Nightly News" on December 1, 2004. Younger than competitors Peter Jennings and Dan Rather, he's the first to leave, and does it with the status of America's favorite television newsman. (Rather, on the other hand, announced Tuesday he's leaving the "CBS Evening News" while mired in last place in a three-way race).
Each of those anchors has spent years on top of the ratings, and years at the bottom. But Brokaw, 64, has been the leader since 1997 and has widened the gap with Jennings after ABC's newsman made a spirited run at him earlier this year.
"It certainly makes the ease of mind considerably greater," Brokaw said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I'd rather not think about leaving when I'm down."
For two years, NBC has meticulously planned the transition to Brian Williams. There's a lot at stake: the evening news anchor has always been the face of a network news division. Even as morning shows have eclipsed the evening news in profitability, the ratings at night continue to be an important barometer of a division's health.
With the exception of Rather's brief partnership with Connie Chung in the 1990s, there hasn't been a change at the top since Brokaw and Jennings took over in September 1983 — a remarkable 21-year run of stability as the news business changed around them.
Already, ABC News is trying to seize on the opening with campaign-style advertisements touting Jennings' experience.
Even though Brokaw has homes in the New York City area and family that lives in Los Angeles, the secret to his appeal lies in his ability to relate to the vast America between those two coasts.
"Brokaw has come a long way but he hasn't got the pretension of that status. He seems look-you-in-the-eye genuine," said Ken Bode, a former NBC colleague who teaches journalism at Depauw University in Indiana. Bode, a fellow University of South Dakota graduate, has urged Brokaw to run for president, a notion the newsman politely rejects.
He's not flashy, he's "just this amiable guy," said Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University.
"Even if he's part of the media elite that everyone is suspicious of, he just has this air about him of this is the kind of guy you could invite over for meatloaf," Thompson said.
Brokaw cemented his heartland appeal with "The Greatest Generation," the best seller that touched a chord and gave a name to the Americans who fought World War II.
He's the country guy next to the urbane Jennings, and is untouched by media scandal, like the ill-fated story about President Bush's National Guard service that has clouded Rather's final months as anchor. Brokaw's boss, NBC chief Bob Wright, has cited his "red state" appeal.
Brokaw agrees — to a point.
"I think I have a red and blue state sensibility," he said. "I think, having grown up in South Dakota and having spent a lot of my last 20 years in places like Montana, that I do understand these cultures and these states politically. But I also live in Manhattan and I'm keenly aware of the sensibilities of people in this part of the country. I'm a true purple person."
Ultimately, it's Montana, where Brokaw and his wife Meredith have a ranch, that feels most like home.
Brokaw also feels the less successful times in his life helped him keep his bearings, and viewers can sense that. He spent a period of time drifting in college before settling on broadcast journalism as a career path, and keeps notes on other successful people who needed time to find their way. When he was in third place in the news ratings, he dealt constantly with rumors that he would be replaced.
He avoids the word "retirement," and his contract with NBC News requires him to produce at least three documentaries a year for the news division. He said he wants more time to think about fewer things.
Brokaw, who enjoys outdoor adventures like mountain climbing, had to hustle from a scuba-diving trip to a studio in Florida to anchor NBC's coverage when the space shuttle exploded in 2003.
"I want to be able to go places and not be in an anxiety-induced state because I'm worried about having to get back or at least someplace where they can get me on camera," he said. "I've been at it a long time and it's time for a new generation of NBC people to have a more clear path before them."
If not for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Brokaw said he probably would have left earlier.
"Everything from 9/11 forward has been the worst of times and the best of times," he said. "The story has everyone's attention and is so consequential that you know every day when you come in you're doing something very important. You're not just filling it up every night between 'good evening' and 'good night.'"
If a story of that magnitude happens again, "I'll report for duty," he said. "It doesn't mean I'll go back to what I did before. They'll have to find a new role for me."
In the next few months, Brokaw plans a fishing trip to New Zealand and a mountain-climbing expedition in South America.
Maybe that will help him disengage. He took two months off during the summer of 2001 and called the office virtually every day, said Steve Capus, "Nightly News" executive producer.
"Having access to the news before most people in the world is a drug and I expect there will be a withdrawal," Capus said. "It wouldn't be surprising to me to get a call."
Still, he said, "there is not a part of him that says, 'I'm not sure I'm ready to go.' He is ready to go. He has great faith in the news division and in Brian. This is all being done from a position of strength."
Williams isn't new to the role — he's been Brokaw's top substitute for several years — but that hasn't stopped Brokaw from offering his successor advice.
"One of the first things I said was, 'Don't pay any attention to the media writers,"' he said. "I've been up and I've been down and I know what it's like when you're down. You have to define yourself to the audience and the way you do that is by putting your head down and doing the work."
- November 24, 2004 Associated Press Release
Hi, My name is Peter Kok. I am twenty four years old; and a student at Florida Community College at Jacksonville. I am from Southern Sudan. I have been in the U.S. for two and half years. I had lived miserably in Africa. In contrast, I live happily here in America. I just want to say happy birthday to my friend Mr. Tom Brokaw. Tom is one of the best journalists in America. I am so inspired by his reporting. I always do not know on what day his birthday is. Today, I heard his birthday announcement on NPR Morning Edition. So,I am so thrilled to write to him a happy birthday note. In my point of view, Tom is the best journalist that can be honored by all Americans. Even though I see him only on TV, there will be a time for me to meet him. I have been watching NBC Nightly News since I had arrived in the U.S. I hope this note will reach him at where he is. Happy Birthday to you, Mr. Brokaw, and God bless you and your family always.
- Peter Kok (February 6, 2004)
Tom Brokaw in the Internet Movie Database.
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