Ten Minutes With Tom Brokaw
The former anchor and esteemed journalists talks about life and issues
Few people in television are as well-regarded as Tom Brokaw. For more than 20 years he was the familiar anchor of “NBC Nightly News,” leaving that post in 2004 to pursue, among other things, writing. Brokaw is author, most notably, of The Greatest Generation and Boom! Now he returns as interim host of the Sunday-morning broadcast “Meet the Press,” filling in for his friend and colleague, the late Tim Russert. We talked with Brokaw about Russert, the election, and his iPod.
It is no doubt a bittersweet return, stepping in after Tim Russert’s untimely death. How do you deal with both filling in for him and not taking over for him?
Tim took “Meet the Press” to its highest level, so we have to keep it going like that. I think he and I have common values, but of course I’ll bring my own sensibilities to what we do.
What legacy does Tim Russert leave?
He was tough but fair. He examined guests’ records and put it in front of them. They couldn’t say one thing in the Midwest and something else in the South. He would call them on it.
Of all that is going on in the world, what do you want to know more about?
If I could point a magic telescope at the future, I would want to know how we are going to bring the Third World into the modern era without destroying the planet.
Can you talk more about that?
We live beyond what is required in this country. It will be tough to say to the developing world: You can’t have what we have. That is a big issue.
You have said that the rules have changed for voters. What do you mean?
There is a diminution of dogma this time. So many past elections have been ideological food fights. People are more interested in solutions now.
Is the idealism of Obama supporters different from the idealism you experienced in Boom! about the Sixties?
We’ll have to wait and see. That movement wasn’t true to itself. It was seasonal. It let Nixon get elected twice. Reagan twice. Bush 43 twice. The Sixties activists who are still around are certainly saying: We don’t want to let this opportunity pass us by.
The media world has changed dramatically since you first entered television. What has remained the same?
You’ve gotta get it right. It can be done in an engaging, even entertaining way. That’s the form. But substance is the test of any journalist.
Whom do you admire?
I am very close to Tom Friedman, one of the great journalists of our time. I am a huge fan of CSPAN.
What do you keep on your iPod?
I have a mix. I have a daughter at Warner Records, so I have her playlist. I’m an old Sixties guy, so I have a lot of Dylan, and Paul Simon, and Joni Mitchell, and Judy Collins. Being a jazz buff, I’m a particular aficionado of Chet Baker.
What brought you to Pound Ridge and before that Litchfield?
My wife is an avid horsewoman. We have been so impressed by the way the community is such a steward of the values of the area, the environmental and conservation issues that have come into play. I do wish we could do away with the cell-phone dead zone. I am kind of amused by it though.