A WALK WITH TOM BROKAW
BY DAN MILLER
(originally posted December 1, 2004)
Tonight, Tom Brokaw ends 21 years as principal anchor of NBC Nightly News.
I'll miss him being there.
When big things happen in the country or the world..... good or bad..... he's the one I want to hear it from.
I've had the pleasure of Tom's company three or four times over the years, and I've found him to be a warm, generous man.
The first time we met was around 1980, before he became anchor of Nightly News.
He was a panelist for the Vanderbilt Impact Symposium, and I was the moderator.
But my favorite time spent with Tom Brokaw was in 1984.
I flew to New York to tape, what they call, cross promotional announcements with Tom and several others news people at NBC.
You've probably seen these types of spots. A local news anchor sitting next to the network anchor, on the big national news desk, talking glowingly about each other's news product.
It's an interesting experience. Dozens of anchors from cities all over, gathered at NBC, in a room filled with donuts and pastries, coffee and soft drinks -- each waiting to be shuffled into a studio for his or her three minutes next to the big guy.
But it is fun. You see and talk with the network stars.... their make-up artists put make-up on you....
and, what's most fun, you mix and mingle with news people from other cities. There's almost always someone there you worked with at some stop along the way.
Anyhow, after the taping was done, I was headed to the elevators - tape in hand - ready to take the long walk back to my hotel.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see Tom Brokaw, standing in the hallway -- ambushed by a young man (I assume one of the visiting anchors) who just kept asking question after question, followed by long-winded observations -- and Brokaw just couldn't break away.
Tom looked flustered. He didn't want to be unkind, but he obviously wanted to be on his way.
Suddenly, we made eye contact, and to my surprise he called out, "Dan, hold the elevator", and came running over.
On the elevator, we mused about how easy it is to get trapped in well intentioned conversation, and how difficult it is to graciously break away.
On the ground floor, we walked out of 30 Rock, onto Fifth Avenue, and proceeded to walk six blocks through Manhattan, talking about the news, about his wife's toy business, about the characters on the streets of New York, about the weather, and about Nashville.... a city Tom is quite fond of.
Now, I promise you.... I gave him every opportunity to go his own way, fearing any minute he would call out to someone else to "hold the elevator"..... but he never did.
Finally, I turned to go to my hotel, said goodbye, and remember thinking, "he's a nice, regular guy."
And that, I think, has been his strength on television. He is a really nice, regular guy. He's grounded, he knows what he's doing, and he makes it look easy.
Tune in tonight at 5:30 for Tom's final newscast.
As he signs off, and walks away, it will be done with class.