- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 1, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — After bringing viewers the news for nearly 23 years, NBC anchor Tom Brokaw signed off yesterday, expressing gratitude for what he received in return.

“Thanks for all that I have learned from you,” he said at the end of his final “Nightly News” broadcast, his voice wavering. “That’s been my richest reward.”

Mr. Brokaw reminded his audience how “we’ve been through a lot together, through dark days and nights, and seasons of hope and joy.”

“Whatever the story, I had only one objective: to get it right,” he said, adding that he was “always mindful that your patience and attention didn’t come with a lifetime warranty.”

Making good on an exit plan announced in May 2002, Mr. Brokaw, 64, is stepping away from daily journalism to pursue other interests, including more time on his Montana ranch. But his association with NBC will continue under an agreement to host at least three documentaries per year.

If a huge story breaks, “I’ll report for duty,” he has told the Associated Press. “It doesn’t mean I’ll go back to what I did before. They’ll have to find a new role for me.”

Brian Williams, long groomed as Mr. Brokaw’s successor, takes over “Nightly News” with tonight’s broadcast. He begins at the top of the ratings, where “Nightly News” has reigned since 1997.

Mr. Brokaw’s departure has been the object of ceremony the past few days, both from the press at large and on his own network, which last week aired a two-hour Brokaw retrospective on “Dateline NBC.”

Yesterday morning, he appeared on “Today,” which he once anchored, for a tribute and a champagne toast from hosts Katie Couric and Matt Lauer, who paraphrased a familiar song: “Nobody does it better and no one ever has.”

“Even as we speak, people are changing the nameplate on my door,” Mr. Brokaw joked during the segment.

The much-awaited shift at NBC was upstaged briefly last week by the surprise announcement that Dan Rather would be departing the “CBS Evening News” anchor seat in March, after 24 years.

Those changes, after two decades of stability, will leave only ABC’s Peter Jennings among the old-timers in the anchor chair.

As Mr. Brokaw marked his 30th anniversary with NBC in 1996, he recalled the precipitous ups and downs at the network.

“I never expected the waves would be quite as steep as they were,” he said. “But even in the worst of times, it was better than anything I thought I’d ever have in life.”

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