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Brian Williams to succeed Brokaw in 2004

Williams was NBC White House correspondent, 1994-'96

Brian Williams
Brian Williams  

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Brian Williams will succeed Tom Brokaw in 2004, NBC announced Tuesday, making Brokaw the first of the big three evening news hosts to set a firm departure date.

The announcement was made in a news conference with Brokaw, Williams and top NBC executives in Studio 8H at NBC's Rockefeller Center headquarters.

Brokaw's contract was to expire at the end of this summer and network executives worked to re-sign him while also accommodating Williams, a hot commodity whom the network did not want to lose.

Brokaw, 62, the chief anchor and managing editor of NBC's "Nightly News," will remain in those duties through the November 2004 elections. He will continue to do one-hour news specials after he gives up his anchor chair.

Williams, 43, currently anchors a nightly news program carried on MSNBC and CNBC. He will gradually become a larger contributor on "Nightly News" before he takes over the reins. His current program will be dropped from MSNBC's lineup, but remain on CNBC, the network executives said.

"I knew that Brian had a lot of overtures from other networks," Brokaw said. "The last thing we wanted to do was to lose him."

NBC executives declined to comment on the length of either Brokaw's or Williams' new contracts, or how much either anchor will be paid.

Passing of baton

Tuesday's announcement marks the start of a passing of the baton from one anchor generation -- Brokaw, ABC's Peter Jennings and CBS's Dan Rather -- to the next generation.

It also marked NBC's commitment to stay with nightly news broadcasts, which some industry insiders have written off.

Tom Brokaw
Tom Brokaw  

"Everyone is always trying to write our lead for us in our business. Let me try," said Williams. "It's a great day for NBC News. It's a great day for the network evening news business. It's a place where, after all, about 30 million people come every night. And it's a place where nine months ago, for a horrible set of reasons, everyone was reminded why they come there every night."

Brokaw, a South Dakota native who became the sole anchor of the "Nightly News" on September 5, 1983, said he will remain active in journalism even after he retires.

"It doesn't mean that I am going to go sit in the anchorman's rest home in a rocking chair and take soft food beginning January of 2005," Brokaw said.

Ending speculation

Brokaw sparked speculation last year that he might step aside after he took much of last summer off. However, the September 11 attacks re-energized him and brought home the importance of his work.

"A lot of you wrote about the fact that I took off a lot of time last summer, that was in part to try to contemplate how I wanted to live the rest of my life," Brokaw acknowledged to reporters Tuesday.

He added: "The important thing for all of us to remember this day is not just about Studio 8H, and one younger man and one older man extending their careers at more than minimum wage. It's about the extraordinary circumstances that we all find ourselves in, not just as journalists but as citizens, and it requires us all to pay a lot of attention to what is going on outside this studio and outside these walls as well."

Williams -- a White House intern during the Carter administration -- first joined NBC in 1993, and served as the network's chief White House correspondent from 1994-1996. He also was the anchor and managing editor of the Saturday edition of NBC's "Nightly News" for six years.

Prior to joining NBC, Williams spent seven years at WCBS-TV, a CBS-owned and -operated station in New York City, as an anchor and correspondent. He also worked for a CBS station in Philadelphia. He began his career at KOAM-TV in Pittsburg, Kansas.

NBC's evening news anchors have included Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, and John Chancellor.




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