One of South Dakota's favorite sons, Tom Brokaw, attended the Nebraska-Oklahoma game last weekend as a guest of OU's president, and was booed more heartily than were the Huskers by the OU crowd. Sooner fans despise the mainstream media more than they despise the Huskers? That's really saying something.
If and when I watch network news, I always turn to Brokaw on NBC, as he's much better than alternatives Rather and Jennings. Unfortunately, Brokaw is leaving the anchor's chair forever on December 22. The New York Times profiled Tom Brokaw last Sunday in an article headlined "Anchor Away." Excerpt:
Competitors and media critics may have gnashed their teeth, but the strategy was sound, and Mr. Brokaw gradually established his persona as the anchor most able to speak to the concerns of the American people.
Today Mr. Wright puts it in contemporary terms. "He's a red state guy and we live in a red state world."
The crimson state in question is South Dakota, where Mr. Brokaw was born, and which he says still lives in him despite his decades as a resident of Manhattan. Mr. Rather has Texas in his blood, of course, but his connections to his Southwest roots can seem forced, as in his country-fried election night witticisms. Mr. Jennings has no red or blue state background to call upon at all, since he's a native Canadian.
"I still have a South Dakota-Montana sensibility about certain things," Mr. Brokaw said. "I have an awareness of what people are thinking and talking about. I don't treat Middle America as flyover country."
Mr. Lack said, "They see him as the guy with the least pretensions. He's the guy you would want to go have a beer with."
This is, as even Mr. Brokaw concedes, something of a skewed impression. "People still think of me as from South Dakota," he said. "But I'm a bright lights, big city guy." That translates to living in an apartment on Park Avenue and interests ranging from the Yankees to the city's art galleries. Yes, Mr. Brokaw, who makes about $10 million a year, vacations on a ranch in Montana, but he often travels there on a private jet owned by Herbert Allen, the investment banker and one of Mr. Brokaw's closest friends.
In Mr. Lack's analysis, "Tom loves being hip, which is counter to the ordinary guy. I have been in more trendy restaurants with him that I ever would have imagined. Tom loved Hollywood when he was in L.A. He loves show business. He's very comfortable in all those areas, even if what he truly is is a regular guy from South Dakota who married a Miss South Dakota."