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[Opinion] Anchors Who Made History

Posted December. 01, 2004 23:03,   


The era of the top network news troika is ending. During the last two decades, anchors of evening news at NBC, ABC, and CBS, the three major U.S. TV networks, have been known as a troika. Tom Brokaw (64) of NBC had his last news on Dec. 1. Dan Rather (73) of CBS is supposed to retire on March 9, 2005, the 24th anniversary of his work as anchor after succeeding Walter Cronkite. Peter Jennings (66) of ABC has not talked about resigning, but considering his age, it seems a matter of time. NBC News will have a new 45-year-old anchor Brian Williams.

▷The aggregated years they have been reporting news show amounts to 70. If you add the time they engaged in broadcasting, not as an anchor, it is a whopping 130 years. They reported on hotspots around the world and at home, thus making history. They were there when former U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, when America waged war in Iraq and Afghanistan, when the Berlin Wall was being torn down, and when the Tiananmen massacre broke out. The troika has been loved by the American people, with their own characteristic and image. Rather is known as a masculine “cowboy anchor” from Texas, while Brokaw from the Midwest is characterized as sensible and dignified. Jennings, from Canada, is also called “a curator of breaking news.”

▷Brokaw has retired, saying it is time to go, while Rather decided to resign after the “forged memo” scandal in the run-up to this year’s presidential election. Another important factor behind their decisions is the advent of the new media, including the Internet and cable TV news channels, which urged innovation among TV networks. As early as the early 1990s, the aggregated viewership of the news shows provided by the three broadcasting companies averaged 3.6-3.8 million a day. Currently, however, the figure stays at a mere 2.8 million, and the ratings show a one-digit rate. The anchors’ influence during the 1980s and 1990s was huge enough to sway American political circles.

▷Rather is planning to work as a correspondent for “60 Minutes” after ending his years as an anchorman. Brokaw, who reported on as many as 10 American presidential elections, is not leaving the broadcasting for good. What made it possible for them to be cultural icons for such a long time is their ceaseless effort to develop their talent and the American professionalism which systematically guarantees millions dollars of salary and honor for talented professionals. That is quite different from Korea’s broadcasting circles where people’s looks and political background are put before their experience and talent and where popularity is considered a big advantage to becoming a politician.

Kwon Soon-taek, Washington Correspondent, maypole@donga.com