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As Brokaw Departs, NBC News Looks Forward

As Brokaw Departs, NBC News Looks ForwardNealShapiro, president of NBC News and a Tufts graduate, says thatthe network’s transition from longtime anchor Tom Brokawto Brian Williams will be smooth and successful.Medford/Somerville,Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [12.08.04] On December 1, veteran NBC newsman Tom Brokaw anchoredhis last edition of NBC Nightly News and handed overthe reins to Brian Williams, a change that NBC News presidentand Tufts graduate Neal Shapiro believes will go well for boththe network and its viewers.

Also:NBC’sShapiro Defends Reporters’ Confidentiality

“Allof us knew Tom would leave eventually, and he would leave on hisown terms,” Shapiro told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Brokaw, whohad anchored the nightly newscast for 23 of his 38 years at NBC– including time on the Today show – will stay withthe network through 2014 helping produce documentaries.

“He’llbe remembered as someone who’s totally authentic and comfortablewith who he is,” Shapiro told Cox News Service.“He’s totally engaged in both the story and how totell it.”

Anchors likeBrokaw, ABC’s Peter Jennings and CBS’s Dan Ratherhave held their jobs for decades, although Rather announced inNovember that he would give up the anchor’s chair next year.

Two yearsago, NBC officially tapped Williams, a 45-year-old New Jerseynative, as the successor to 64-year-old Brokaw, who had followedin the footsteps of John Chancellor and David Brinkley

Williams comesto the 6:30 p.m. slot as the first replacement for the previousgeneration of anchors, in an age where network newscast ratingshave declined across the board as of late in the advent of 24-hournews and the internet.

Still, Shapirobelieves that people develop and hold attachments to evening newsanchors, telling the Dallas-Fort Worth Star Telegramthat they must be “unique hybrids” with many talentsand capabilities.

“Youcan’t be separated from them,” Shapiro continued.

Reuters quotedShapiro as calling Williams “a great reporter,” butcritics have said that Williams – despite hosting his ownshows on CNBC and MSNBC and anchoring the Saturday edition ofNightly News – lacked the reporting experienceto take the top on-air job for NBC.

“Ifyou’re asking if we’re realistic in knowing the greatchallenge of changing something that hasn’t changed in 20years, no matter who you put up there, that answer is yes,”Shapiro said to the Dallas-Fort Worth Star Telegram.

Viewers, Shapiroadded, “really like him. That’s par for the coursewith solid anchors. They tend to win you over in time, once viewersfeel they know him”

Williams,in contrast with the affable Brokaw and the homespun Rather, hasbeen criticized for his stoic on-air manner.

“Brianis indeed charming and funny, so we’ve looked for more waysto show that,” Shapiro told the Los Angeles Times.

Brokaw’sdeparture was marked with little fanfare – “We’llprobably have champagne in plastic cups in the studio,”Shapiro told the Inquirer before Brokaw’s final show –and followed the next night by Williams’s debut.

In true televisionspirit, Shapiro summed it up best to television critics when hesaid to them, “the show goes on.”

NBC’sShapiro Defends Reporters’ Confidentiality


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