The Truth Behind What Happened To Tom Brokaw

What Happened, Tom?

What Happened, Tom?
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For the better part of three decades, Tom Brokaw was one of the “Big Three” news anchors in the United States. Since 2004, however, Brokaw has largely disappeared from the public eye. What caused Brokaw to take a step away, and where is he now?

Big J Journalism

Big J Journalism
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When people think of journalism, Brokaw’s name is one of the first to come to mind. Specializing in television journalism, Brokaw has become a benchmark for many aspiring journalists. Throughout his formative years, it was easy to see Brokaw was destined to succeed.

Finding An Early Passion

Finding An Early Passion
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Born on February 6, 1940, to Jean and Red, Brokaw was the eldest of three boys. During Brokaw’s early years, his family jumped from town-to-town in their home state of South Dakota, before settling down in Yankton. It was in Yankton that Brokaw began to develop a love for television.

The First Taste

The First Taste
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With Brokaw’s father busy working for the Army Corps of Engineers, he began to come into his own while attending Yankton Senior High School. Brokaw quickly became involved in school activities. This is where he experienced his first taste of live television.

Big Apple

Big Apple
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While in high school, Brokaw joined the student government. He became the governor of the South Dakota American Legion Boys State. After he was nominated to the position, Brokaw took a trip to New York City for the first time.

Good Fortune

Good Fortune
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Brokaw was asked to accompany then-South Dakota Governor Joe Foss on a trip to New York. There, Brokaw and Foss would appear together on a television game show. This trip was both an early turning point in Brokaw’s life and a boon to his career.

Put It In Ink

Put It In Ink
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Brokaw and Foss became great friends during their trip to New York. After high school, Brokaw was brought on as an Advisory Board member at the Joe Foss Institute. The two would remain lifelong friends. Brokaw would go on to write a book about World War II veterans titled The Greatest Generation. His good friend, Foss, was heavily featured in the book.

Homesick

Homesick
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Brokaw’s initial taste of college was a little too much for him to handle. Brokaw started his collegiate studies at the University of Iowa. However, he dropped out after just one year. Unable to concentrate at Iowa, Brokaw returned home to attend the University of South Dakota. After graduating with a BA in Political Science, Brokaw quickly found himself on the path to stardom.

Taste Of Success

Taste Of Success
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Despite not lasting long in Iowa, Brokaw did begin his television career in the Hawkeye State. Brokaw began as a newscaster and weatherman at KTIV in Sioux City. His experience in Iowa led to another job, this time in Omaha, Nebraska. Shortly after graduating from the University of South Dakota in 1964, Brokaw caught his first big break. For one year, Brokaw was an anchor at WSB-TV in Atlanta. Little did he know at the time, but his life would change forever in just a few months.

Path To Glory

Path To Glory
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His work in Atlanta caught the attention of a major broadcasting company — NBC. Brokaw joined NBC News in 1966 and moved to Los Angeles. There, Brokaw anchored the 10:00 pm newscast for KNBC. At only 26 years of age, Brokaw was moving up the ranks faster than anyone could have imagined.

Watergate

Watergate
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Brokaw continued his work as an anchor for KNBC for six years. Then, in 1973, Brokaw burst onto the national scene. NBC had decided Brokaw was ready for prime-time. Not only was he called on to anchor the Saturday editions of Nightly News, but Brokaw was named NBC’s White House correspondent. His first task? Covering the Watergate scandal.

The Shocking Revelation

The Shocking Revelation
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Ironically enough, in 2017, Brokaw revealed a secret he had been holding onto dating back to 1969. Allegedly, a then-29-year-old Brokaw was offered the role of press secretary in the Richard Nixon White House. He declined, and just four years later, he found himself covering an event that he easily could have been involved in.

Furthering His Star

Furthering His Star
Image Source: NBC/NBC NewsWire

Once the dust settled on the Watergate scandal, Brokaw was given his next big break. In 1976, Brokaw was named the host of NBC’s Today Show. Brokaw continued to host the famous show for five more years. Then, in 1982, it was time to make yet another high-profiled move.

Setting Up The Future

Setting Up The Future
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Although at this point in time Brokaw was a big name and up-and-coming star anchor, he couldn’t have seen this coming. On April 5, 1982, Brokaw made his first appearance on NBC Nightly News as a co-anchor alongside Roger Mudd. His hard work and good relationship with NBC would quickly earn him the reputation as being one of the best in the business.

The Takeover

The Takeover
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Reuven Frank, president of NBC News, was sold on Brokaw. However, Roger Mudd wasn’t cutting it. After only one year together as co-anchors of NBC Nightly News, Frank decided it was time for a change. On September 5, 1983, NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw debuted. Brokaw had arrived.

The Voice Of Comfort

The Voice Of Comfort
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Brokaw quickly became one of the most recognizable figures in the United States. He was responsible for delivering some of the biggest news stories throughout the 1980s to millions of people. Within the span of a month in 1986, Brokaw covered the Challenger tragedy and the EDSA Revolution in the Philippines. However, one of the biggest moments of Brokaw’s career came in 1989.

Striking Gold Overseas

Striking Gold Overseas
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Brokaw struck gold during the fall of the Berlin Wall. The anchor became the first English broadcast journalist to report the opening of the Berlin Wall. In addition, Brokaw was granted an interview with Gunter Schabowski — the man responsible for letting East Berliners to cross the wall to the West side without prior consent. As big as this was for his career, Brokaw was just getting started.

An American First

An American First
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Now NBC’s clear No. 1 and arguably the most revered journalist in the world, Brokaw was given another special opportunity. Brokaw became the first American journalist to have a one-on-one, televised interview with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Day We Will Never Forget

The Day We Will Never Forget
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In 2001, his 19th year as the host of NBC Nightly News, Brokaw was once again present for one of the world’s most tragic events. On September 11, 2001, the United States was the target of terrorism. Joined by Katie Couric and Matt Lauer, Brokaw continued to cover the attacks well past midnight. For days, Brokaw was giving Americans, and many across the world, constant updates. Mere weeks later, Brokaw’s life was at risk.

The Knocks Keep Coming

The Knocks Keep Coming
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Starting on September 18, only one week removed from the 9/11 attacks, a wave of anthrax attacks popped up across America. One of the intended targets — Tom Brokaw. A letter addressed to Brokaw was riddled with the deadly substance, but it never reached him. Two fellow NBC News employees were infected, but ultimately recovered.

Seizing Control

Seizing Control
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In 2002, 42 years after his career began, NBC announced that Brokaw would step down as the Nightly News anchor following the 2004 Presidential election. Though he would remain with NBC in a part-time role, Brokaw’s time as a main anchor would come to a close. The only person to host all three major NBC News programs — The Today Show, NBC Nightly News and Meet the Press — Brokaw went out on a high note.

Changing Of The Guard

Changing Of The Guard
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The masses tuned in to watch Brokaw’s final night as the anchor of Nightly News. An astonishing 15.7 million viewers tuned in on December 1, 2004, to say goodbye to the longtime television personality. Brokaw left the audience with one last remark:

” And it is in that spirit that I say, thanks, for all that I have learned from you. That’s been my richest reward.

That’s Nightly News for this Wednesday night. I’m Tom Brokaw. You’ll see Brian Williams here tomorrow night, and I’ll see you along the way.”

The Moderator

The Moderator
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Since stepping down from his full-time position, Brokaw has made a few appearances. Most famously, Brokaw moderated the second presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain in 2008. Since this moment, however, not everything has gone well for the former television star.

Fighting For His Life

Fighting For His Life
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In February of 2014, NBC announced that Brokaw was undergoing treatment for cancer. Brokaw, at 76 years old, had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma in August of 2013. Despite the tough news, Brokaw continued to soldier on and work throughout his treatments.

A Tremendous Honor

A Tremendous Honor
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While still battling cancer, Brokaw received some tremendous news. On November 10, 2014, the White House announced that Brokaw would receive the nation’s highest civilian honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The good news kept coming. A month later, Brokaw revealed that his cancer was in remission and that he would begin a drug regimen to keep the cancer at bay.

Serious Accusations

Serious Accusations
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Unfortunately, Brokaw’s most recent return to the limelight was for all the wrong reasons. In 2018, former NBC News correspondent Linda Vester accused Brokaw of harassment in the 1990s. Vester, a war correspondent for NBC News in the ’90s, claimed Brokaw tried to kiss her on two occasions, and also groped her in a NBC conference room. Brokaw has since denied the allegations.

Dastardly Words

Dastardly Words
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While Brokaw works to clear his name regarding the sexual harassment claims, he has yet another problem to deal with. Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press on January 27, 2019, Brokaw made a very controversial remark, saying that he thinks Hispanics should “work harder at assimilation” into American culture.

“You know, they ought not to be just codified in their communities but make sure that all their kids are learning to speak English, and that they feel comfortable in the communities,” he said during Sunday’s segment. “And that’s going to take outreach on both sides [Republican and Democrat], frankly.”

An Iconic Name

An Iconic Name
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While there is no excusing the severity of both the allegations made against Brokaw and his remarks stated previously, there is no denying Brokaw’s everlasting mark on journalism and television reporting. Approaching 60 years of television work, Brokaw will be remembered as a pioneer in the field — and an inspiration to many.