Brokaw on The New Big Three

By Chris Ariens 

Tom Brokaw appeared with Howard Kurtz this morning on CNN’s Reliable Sources. They talked Presidential politics, the Iraq war, the 60’s (the subject of Brokaw’s latest book) and broadcast news. After the jump, Brokaw’s thoughts on Couric, Williams and the state of the evening news.

• On Katie Couric leaving NBC to anchor the CBS Evening News:

I said to her before she left, Katie, it is a dive off the high board. And she said, ‘do you think I’m going to — does that mean you think I’m going to fail? And I said, no. Having gone from the Today show to the Evening News, it is a different DNA. And the public looks at it in a different way.

One of the penalties that she pays or anyone pays in this business anymore is that the attention span of the country is so short on all of these matters. So you don’t get a lot of second chances, you know. They take a look and they make a decision and they move on.

• On Brian Williams hosting SNL:

I thought he did a good job. He wrote to me beforehand and my instinct was to say, ‘don’t do this,’ because when I was an anchorman 10, 15 years ago, Lorne would come by and say, you know, would you ever think about it? And I would say, no, because it is tough. The audience has to know where I fit and I’m — I have got to stay on my side of the line, Lorne. I think the rules have changed a lot now, I think people are much — moved much more easily across those lines. And Brian plainly wanted to do it. And Meredith, my wife, said to me, you know, he should be able to do that. So I wrote back to him and said, ‘just make sure that you maintain control.’

• On the network evening newscasts:

It is not as dominant as it once was, but between them they deliver 20 million people a night…There is no other establishment that does that. When people say to me, that Bill O’Reilly is popular, and I say, ‘now what do you suppose his proportion of audience is compared to, say, Katie Couric, who is not doing well at CBS?’ It is a third. The trend lines are down, there is no question about it. We are living in a — what I call the big bang, which is that we are creating a whole new universe. We are trying to figure out which planets are going to support life and which ones won’t, which ones will drift too close to the sun and burn out.