Television anchorman and journalist Tom Brokaw is a media institution and an iconic figure on par with Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. But Brokaw became news himself Tuesday when NBC announced that he is receiving treatment for cancer. Brokaw was diagnosed with what is known as multiple myeloma, a cancer that affects blood cells in the bone marrow.
But the news hasn’t seemed to stop Brokaw. He continues to work, and released a statement concurrent with the announcement saying that he’s fighting the disease with everything he has. “With the exceptional support of my family, medical team and friends, I am very optimistic about the future and look forward to continuing my life, my work and adventures still to come,” he said. “I remain the luckiest guy I know.”
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Before there were Smartphones, before there were DVRs, before there were “57 channels (and nothing on),” as Bruce Springsteen so eloquently sang, there was Tom Brokaw. Hired by NBC in 1966, his first coverage included Robert Kennedy’s assassination, Ronald Reagan’s first run for public office and the 1968 presidential campaign — not bad for his first few years on the job.
He soon became NBC’s White House Correspondent during the Watergate era, revealing later that he considered fellow journalist Bob Woodward to be a real “mentor” to him during the experience. Brokaw was also the first reporter to get a one-on-one interview with Mikhail Gorbachev, former leader of what was then known as the Soviet Union, during the height of the Cold War.
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In fact, Broker had several “firsts” during his career. He was the first to interview the Dalai Lama and report on human rights abuses in Tibet, was the only network anchor in Berlin when the wall fell in 1989, and was the first evening news anchor in 2003 to go back to Baghdad post-war and explore the landscape.
While he may have stepped away from the desk fulltime in 2004, Brokaw has remained a solid journalist, moderating NBC programs, writing books and maintaining a full schedule even even without doing the same kinds of reporting that helped establish him among the media’s most respected and dedicated spokespeople. In fact, since his diagnosis and even during the reported treatment that he has been receiving, Brokaw been contributing to the Olympics coverage at Sochi, working on a two-hour long documentary on the assassination of John F. Kennedy and making a variety of different news-show appearances.
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Journalism’s evolution, sociologically as much as technologically, has changed the way citizens receive information about the world around them, and changed the nature of the information they receive. But even without appearing on the nightly news, Brokaw continues to set the gold standard for reporting, and his integrity and fearlessness serve as an inspiration to the men and women who have followed in his footsteps.
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