NBC News will unveil a new Los Angeles bureau on the Universal Studios lot named in honor of longtime NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw. The Brokaw News Center — which will be home to the West Coast operations of NBC News, CNBC, MSNBC, Telemundo and KNBC and KVEA — will be dedicated during a ceremony Tuesday morning attended by Brokaw and his wife, Meredith, as well as NBCUniversal executives including News Group chairman Pat Fili-Krushel, NBC News president Deborah Turness and CEO Steve Burke, who noted that Brokaw “is synonymous with integrity, passion and a commitment to getting the story right.”
Brokaw, who anchored the NBC Nightly News for 22 years before passing the baton to Brian Williams in 2004, has covered the major historical touchstones of the past five decades including Watergate (when he was NBC News’ White House correspondent), Tiananmen Square, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He has reported on every presidential election since 1964 and was the first American journalist to interview Vladimir Putin, Mikhail Gorbachev and the Dalai Lama.
He started his career at NBC News as a Los Angeles bureau correspondent and KNBC anchor in 1966. At 26 years old, his first story was the sudden departure of Yankees manager Johnny Keane, who was replaced by Ralph Houk, in his second tour as the team’s skipper.
“Now, you have to remember that two and a half years earlier I was leaving my hometown of Yankton, South Dakota with my new bride, Meredith,” Brokaw recalled. “Everything we owned was in the back seat of a Chevy. And there I am getting a phone call, ‘Go to Angels Stadium and interview the new Yankees manager.’ I watched the game, went down and did the interviews, met Mickey Mantle, met Roger Maris. I thought, it doesn’t get much better than this.”
Brokaw continues to work for NBC News, narrating multiple documentaries on everything from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to immigration and global warming. He’s written six books, including the best-seller The Greatest Generation. He continues to serve as a special correspondent for NBC News and NBC Sports’ coverage of the Olympics. So he knows that much has changed in the broadcast news business as digital media and mobile technology have upended the lucrative financial models upon which the industry was founded.
“When I got to NBC in ’66, ABC was really not yet a major player. It was really CBS and NBC. We could put on the air almost anything we wanted and people would watch it because those were your choices,” Brokaw told THR.
When he was anchoring the 11 o’clock news on KNBC, there was no ratings pressure.
“Johnny Carson came on right after me. Our ratings were huge,” Brokaw said. “Nobody ever talked to me about them. We never ever looked at a weekly ratings [report]. I was told, ‘Oh you’ve got such a commanding lead you don’t have to worry about it.'”
Still, the three newscasts on NBC, ABC and CBS continue to be appointment viewing for more than 20 million viewers each night. And all three broadcasts have actually added viewers this year.
“They have an enormous reach every night,” said Brokaw. “These big stories that they’re covering now in Ukraine and Korea, people have an appetite for it.”
The 150,000-square foot Brokaw Center will have four newsroom facilities, six production studios and 40 satellite feeds monitored simultaneously (a 40 percent increase from the previous location). The complex’s outdoor areas were designed to accommodate a drought-tolerant landscape sensitive to Southern California’s water shortage. Once fully occupied later this spring, more than 600 people will work out of the news center.
Brokaw joins NBC icons William Abbott and Lou Costello, Alfred Hitchcock, Carl Laemmle, Sidney Sheinberg and Steven Spielberg in having various buildings and streets on the Universal Studios lot named after them.