Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Inside Scoop

The Buzz

Ricky Williams will have a tough time convincing trade suitors that he is back for the long haul when he is balking at playing for the minimum salary the Dolphins want him to accept. ... Titans cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones' most recent brush with the law is an example of why most teams rated him behind Antrel Rolle and Carlos Rogers. ... The Dolphins made an example of safety Quintin Williams, cutting him after his arrest last month, but they will not do anything so rash with tight end Randy McMichael, their leading receiver last year who was arrested and charged with battery against his wife for the second time in 13 months. McMichael's arrest could result in an NFL suspension and hurt his status on the free agent market in 2006. McMichael, who set team records for receptions and yardage by a tight end in 2004, is one of the league's most underpaid players this season at $480,000 ... The Vikings expect safety Corey Chavous and cornerback Brian Williams to report to camp on time; they are two of the team's veteran holdovers in a remade defense. ... The Jaguars' concern now is that running back Fred Taylor will miss at least a month of the regular season. ... Although the Patriots want Richard Seymour to be one of their defensive mainstays, they have enough depth on the line that they will not give in willingly to Seymour's contract demands. ... Quarterback Trent Dilfer's team-first attitude has been exactly what Browns general manager Phil Savage was looking for as a one- or two-year option on a team that is not expected to be very good. ... Donnie Abraham didn't do the Jets any favors last week by deciding to retire two months after telling team officials he planned to play in 2005. The Jets were forced to scramble by trading a conditional 2006 fifth-round draft choice to Dallas for disgruntled cornerback Pete Hunter and are now reconsidering signing Ty Law, whose salary demands have scared off other suitors.

—Matt Pitzer and Alex Marvez

Identity theft

Brian Jackson doesn't look anything like the most famous athlete in Pittsburgh. Nor does he match Ben Roethlisberger's backup Brian St. Pierre.

The two women he dated while impersonating the Steelers quarterbacks eventually caught on — partly because his act included signing worthless fake autographs.

Authorities charged Jackson, a 31-year-old car salesman, with harassment for allegedly continuing to contact both women after they learned of the ruses. He was also charged with criminal mischief for allegedly ruining a Steelers jersey owned by one of the women's neighbors when he signed his rendition of Roethlisberger's autograph on it.

Jackson arrived at the woman's home July 6, gave her an autographed football and pretended to be Roethlisberger, signing the neighbor's jersey, authorities said. When she got home from their date that night, the neighbor brought her a newspaper article and told her that the man wasn't Roethlisberger.

Allegheny County police said Jackson pretended to be St. Pierre, the third-string quarterback, when he met a different woman last September. Jackson told the woman to watch Steelers games so she could see him when he went into the game.

When the woman did watch a game, she saw the real Brian St. Pierre on the screen and realized Jackson was an impostor. Jackson tried to explain to the woman that he looked "different" on TV, but she asked him not to contact her, police said.

Contributing: Sports Weekly's Devin Clancy, Howard Balzer, staff and wire reports

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Brian Williams equates 1st U.S. leaders to Iran president-elect

NBC anchor compares Founders to terrorists
© 2005

In his newscast tonight, "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams compared America's first presidents to the president-elect of Iran, alleged hostage-taker Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying they were "certainly revolutionaries and might have been called terrorists by the British crown."

At least six of the Americans held at the U.S. embassy in Tehran as hostages for 444 days claim Ahmadinejad was one of the leaders of the captors, having recognized him on television reports.

Williams' comment came in a question to reporter Andrea Mitchell.

At the end of Mitchell's report, Williams asked, "What would it all matter if proven true? Someone brought up today the first several U.S. presidents were certainly revolutionaries and might have been called 'terrorists' by the British crown, after all."

The former students who carried out the seizure and held the Americans in Tehran said Ahmadinejad had no role in taking the embassy or guarding the hostages, but that he preferred to target the Soviet Embassy, the Associated Press reported.

"He was not part of us. He played no role in the seizure,'' Abbas Abdi, one of six leaders of the group, told AP.

Members of Ahmadinejad's office refused to look at the photos or comment on the allegations.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Celebrity blogs update: Brian Williams

Filed under: NBC, Talent, News, Cable
Brian WilliamsThis was inevitable (but in a good way): NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams has started a blog over at Many of the NBC news people are blogging (Keith Olbermann, Al Roker, David Shuster, Dan Abrams), and Williams seems to be really "blogging" and not just doing a longer essay every week or so. He's doing 2 to 4 entries a day right now (though some of the really short posts are just promos for Nightly News stories), but of course we'll have to see if he keeps up that pace. This week his blog centers on coverage of the Rev. Billy Graham and Iraq.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Clinton breaks deal with prosecutor

Now says charges against him as president were false
Posted: June 1, 2005
© 2005

President Bill Clinton told NBC's Brian Williams tonight charges brought against him by the House of Representatives were false, contradicting a plea bargain deal he made with Independent Counsel Robert Ray that he admit he gave false testimony under oath to a federal grand jury.

In a blistering attack on Ray's predecessor, Kenneth Starr, Clinton accused the independent counsel of persecuting innocent people, indicting them because they wouldn't lie and assaulting the Constitution.

"I was acquitted," he told Williams. "And ... the charges that the House sent to the Senate were false. So I did a bad thing. I made a bad personal mistake. I paid a big price for it. But I was acquitted because the charges were false."

There was no follow-up by Williams.

The articles of impeachment passed by the House in 1998 included the accusation that he lied under oath. Yet, Clinton admitted Jan. 19, 2001, as part of his deal with Ray, he had lied under oath while testifying about his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

"I tried to walk a fine line between acting lawfully and testifying falsely," he said in a written statement. "But I now recognize that I did not fully accomplish that goal and that certain of my responses to questions about Ms. Lewinsky were false.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Bates College Graduates 517; NBC's Brian Williams Among Honorary Degree Recipients

LEWISTON, Maine, May 31 (AScribe Newswire) -- Speaking at the 139th commencement ceremony at Bates College, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams observed that this graduating class will be known as the Class of 9/11, which occurred just weeks after they started college.

"As much as we would like to hold you all and cradle you in our collective arms and guarantee your safe passage into that American ideal of job and family and prosperity and happiness, that no longer, sadly, comes with the diploma you will receive today," said Williams. "But I'm not altogether sure it ever did."

Williams was one of five honorary degree recipients offering advice, ranging from the personal to the political, to 517 graduating seniors today during the ceremony, held inside Merrill Gymnasium due to inclement weather.

About 2,500 family, faculty and friends attended the event. The Bates class of 2005 includes 62 students from Maine.

The others were composer T.J. Anderson, theoretical biologist Lynn Margulis, entrepreneur and engineer Paul Soros and his wife, Daisy M. Soros.

Williams observed that Bates played an important part in his life: His father, class of 1938, met his mother, class of 1940, at the college. "I can say without hyperbole that I wouldn't exist if it wasn't for Bates College." Williams' late brother, David, also graduated from Bates, with the class of 1965.

Referring to his father's experience, Williams observed that the "Class of 1938 saw their world transformed in a way they could not have known, and many of them strapped on rifles and headed to Europe and the Pacific. Your equipment will be your minds, your smarts, your talents, your love of country. You are the products of greatness. Things will be asked of you, and lives may depend on you. And you are ready."

T.J. Anderson said that regardless of one's discipline, it is important to remember that the arts are a universal language and part of a fulfilling life. He recalled a Soviet goodwill ship that docked at Boston years ago. To his surprise, Anderson said, a band was playing "Mack the Knife." He took out a piece of paper and wrote a variation of the tune, gave it to a trumpet player, and both began to sing from the manuscript.

"After we finished, we smiled at each other. He took a medal off his jacket and gave it to me. I have often thought about the way people of different cultures communicate not with words, but with the language of music."

Margulis, a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, said that science is "not really for scientists. Science is not reading from a book; it is certainly never reading from a textbook. Science is the search for truth whether we like that truth or not."

"Science demands criticism of authority, and argument from evidence against authority," she said. "That's really hard for most of us, especially if you've gotten A's in all your courses."

Philanthropist Daisy Soros asked graduates to make a "philanthropic autobiography -- an accounting of what you have received from others and what in the course of your life you have done to repay them."

"Your philanthropic autobiography should be a long book," she said.

Her husband, philanthropist and engineer Paul Soros, related his own understanding of truth and government from his experiences growing up in Hungary in the 1930s and '40s. He recalled living under fascist rulers, then briefly as a prisoner of war of the Soviets, and then under communism before escaping to the West.

"A free society doesn't just happen," Soros said. "We tend to take our rights for granted, but they are under siege from governments eager for more power to deal with the problems of the moment, and people of good will and faith who want to impose on society their beliefs and convictions."

He said, "The rule of law and the freedom from arbitrary government actions is one of the great gifts you and I have been given. If there is anything I want you to remember from these brief moments, it is that a major measure of your life as a citizen is the degree to which you protect the openness of American society. The price of liberty, indeed, is eternal vigilance."

Leading the ceremony was President Elaine Tuttle Hansen, who noted that this year marks the college's 150th anniversary.

"In commemorating our sesquicentennial on this and other special occasions, we find ourselves looking back at the founders of the college with reverence and awe," Hansen said. "We stand here today because they were visionaries. With few resources and no powerful backers, mostly members of a religious splinter group divided from the mainstream by strident abolitionist views, they took enormous risks for the causes they believed in. We are the future their courage called forth."

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Crystal ball sees quite a crowd in '08

Dan Barrick & Meg Heckman
Monitor staff

Capital Beat Swami here with a peek into the political future. Helping us out today is Bill Whalen, a research fellow at Stanford University who started playing Fantasy Primary 2008 while the rest of the country was still prying last year's campaign signs out of their front lawns. And from what he says, the next few years are going to be awfully fun.

"This is the most wide-open election in a long time," Whalen said. "That is assuming (Vice President Dick) Cheney doesn't run, which is a pretty safe bet."

Things on the Democratic side look pretty sewn up, at least if you put any stock in polls. Most number crunchers, pundits and Beltway gossips point to the liberal trinity of Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and John Edwards.

But look at the GOP and Whalen sees a field at least 14 candidates deep. Sure, the expected big names are there, like Sen. John McCain and Rudolph Giuliani. But plenty of lesser-known Republicans have been testing the primary waters lately, too -- including our neighbor to the south, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

"If he's not running, he's doing a pretty good imitation of it," Whalen said.

Sure, the land of gay marriage, taxes and the Kennedys might not be the easiest place for a Republican to call home ("George W. Bush did a very good job of hanging a 'kick me' sign on Massachusetts," Whalen pointed out.) But Romney might be able to use some of that as ammunition in a primary fight that would likely focus on domestic and social issues, not foreign policy. (read more)

White House shift led to coverage of news conference

May 1, 2005

NEW YORK — A quick schedule shift by the White House enabled President Bush to get considerably wider television exposure than he would have otherwise gotten for Thursday’s prime-time news conference.

Three of the nation’s four biggest broadcasters gave the president a quick hook, however, by cutting away to entertainment programming before his session was finished.

The White House moved the news conference from 8:30 p.m. EDT to 8 p.m. after realizing that CBS, Fox and likely NBC would not air it live. ABC said all along it would cover the president fully.

The White House tried to be accommodating when it realized it had left the networks in a bind on the first night of the May “sweeps,” when ratings are closely watched to set local advertising rates, said White House press secretary Scott McClellan.
(Read More)

Friday, April 29, 2005

How the President's News Conference Ended Up Live on Four Networks

Published: April 29, 2005

In a showdown that featured inside-the-Beltway lobbying and bare-knuckle boardroom negotiating, Donald J. Trump and President Bush effectively squared off yesterday in pursuit of the same parcel of real estate - a piece of the NBC-TV prime-time lineup. And it was the president who blinked first.

But in the end, the president's aides appeared to be every bit as canny as those representing Mr. Trump. The decision by the White House to move up the starting time of its news conference by a half-hour - a move that NBC sought, at least in part to protect the starting time of Mr. Trump's "Apprentice" show - set off a chain of events that wound up garnering the president live coverage on all four major broadcast networks.

The decision, announced in the evening, had the effect of putting sufficient pressure on CBS-TV and Fox Broadcasting, to prompt them to announce that they, too, would carry the news conference live on their main networks, reversing decisions that they had announced publicly earlier in the day.

ABC had announced early in the day that it intended to carry the president live, regardless of the starting time.

The president's aides had intended to begin the session at 8:30 Eastern Daylight Time, which - had NBC covered it live - would have delayed the start of Mr. Trump's "Apprentice" show at 9 o'clock, something the network was loath to do.

After lobbying by NBC executives, the White House announced that it had agreed to move the president's starting time to 8 o'clock. That enabled NBC to show the president live while protecting Mr. Trump at 9 and the start of the highly-rated "E.R." show at 10.

For all the networks, the very selection of last night by the White House, regardless of the time, posed a dilemma. It was first night of the so-called May sweeps period, one of three main times in the year in which network ratings are closely tracked, with an eye on setting advertising rates for the next year.

It was that timing, as much as the White House suggestion that Mr. Bush had no major announcement to make, that gave the networks pause about going live, several executives said.

For CBS and Fox Broadcasting, the choice, at least initially, was relatively simple. However rare the prime-time appearance may have been, neither thought that it could afford to pre-empt the popular one-hour shows that they broadcast beginning at 8 p.m. For CBS, it was "Survivor." For Fox, it was "The O.C."

Both networks announced early yesterday that they did not intend to broadcast the president's remarks live on their main networks. The calculus was relatively clear-cut for ABC, as well. It decided to pre-empt a movie, "Sweet Home Alabama" with Reese Witherspoon, to show the president, followed by an expanded edition of its newsmagazine "Prime Time Live."

Nowhere was the choice more complicated than at NBC, which is fighting mightily to avoid ending the television season that began last fall ranked fourth, at least in terms of viewers ages 18 to 49.

Had it decided to carry the news conference, NBC would have had to bump, or at least delay, a comedy, "Will and Grace," at 8:30, and delay the start of "The Apprentice," among its most popular shows.

Like a game of dominoes, a delay in starting "The Apprentice" would have delayed the start of "E.R.," also among its most popular shows, and that could have then jeopardized the starts of local newscasts, at least on the East Coast.

In the end, NBC decided that it could afford to pre-empt "Will and Grace," but not "The Apprentice."

At 5 p.m., the White House released this one-sentence statement: "Due to the complications of network programming, the White House is moving the time of tonight's news conference to 8:00 p.m."

In a telephone interview soon afterward, a spokeswoman for NBC, Rebecca Marks, expressed satisfaction with the change.

"We had a discussion with the White House about the difficulties of scheduling an 8:30 press conference," Ms. Marks said. "And they responded by moving it to 8 o'clock."

The decision, however, posed a dilemma for CBS in particular. If ABC and NBC, its rivals among the so-called Big 3, were pre-empting their programming at 8 for the president, how could CBS not do the same?

Soon after the decisions by the White House and NBC were announced, CBS said it, too, would broadcast the news conference at 8. It decided to move "Survivor" to 9, pre-empting the wildly popular "C.S.I.," which moved to 10. At least in the eastern and central time zones, a drama, "Without a Trace," usually at 10, would be bumped entirely. CBS officials declined to comment on why they changed course.

Similarly, Fox had no comment on its change. It decided to reschedule an original episode of "The O.C." to next Thursday, leaving intact the remainder of its Thursday lineup, including back-to-back episodes of "The Simple Life," starring Paris Hilton, at 9 and 9:30.

During the news conference, Mr. Bush suggested that he had some familiarity with the intricate negotiations that resulted in his four-network appearance.

A minute or two before 9 p.m., he called for the "final question" and then told the assembled reporters, "I don't want to cut into any of those TV shows that are getting ready to air, for the sake of the economy."

But by then, NBC and CBS, at least, had already cut away from the White House.

Their anchors, Brian Williams on NBC and Bob Schieffer on CBS, were in the process of ending the networks' coverage, so that their entertainment programming could resume, on schedule, at 9.

Elisabeth Bumiller contributed reporting for this article.
(Thanks NYTimes)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

NBC's Williams Heads to Oklahoma City

AP Television Writer

NEW YORK -- With cardinals meeting in Rome to begin selecting a new pope, NBC "Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams chose instead to travel to Oklahoma City for broadcasts commemorating the 10th anniversary of the bombing there.

NBC News stationed Lester Holt in Vatican City, where all of the networks interrupted programming for live coverage of the papal conclave's start.

Williams' Oklahoma City trip was scheduled before NBC knew that the selection process for a new pope would begin Monday. But he and NBC executives decided not to change it.

"I'm convinced that for the first two days of this week and what it meant to the United States, we are in the right place," Williams said by telephone during a stopover in Chicago.

Williams will anchor "Nightly News" Monday and Tuesday from the site of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, where a bomb killed 168 people on April 19, 1995.

None of the other evening news anchors are in Rome. At ABC, where Peter Jennings is out while he undergoes treatment for lung cancer, Charles Gibson anchored Monday's special report from New York, and Bob Woodruff was in Rome. Bob Schieffer was in New York for CBS; John Roberts anchored the special report from Rome.

CBS has sent "The Early Show" co-host Harry Smith to Oklahoma City and ABC sent weekend "Good Morning America" anchor Bill Weir there.

While in Oklahoma City, Williams will do a report on Alan Whicher, a former Secret Service agent who protected President Clinton and the first President Bush and who died in the blast. NBC will also look back on how those injured in the bombing are doing today.

A visit to America's heartland is also good marketing for NBC: it's where Williams' predecessor Tom Brokaw's strength was, and where NBC has advertised Williams as being in-tune with between-the-coasts viewers.

He'll also moderate a panel discussion on how terrorism has changed Americans' lives, but Williams said it was scheduled after the trip was decided upon.

His trip also doesn't mean he can't make it to Rome if the conclave stretches into a third day, Williams said.

Meanwhile, cable news networks began conclave coverage with a new innovation: the smokestack cam. CNN kept a continuous picture of the Sistine Chapel chimney -- where white smoke will eventually signal the election of a new pope -- in a box on the lower right-hand corner of its screen. Fox News Channel and MSNBC also flashed frequent pictures of the smokestack.

Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

NBC Chief Mulls Blogs for Top News Anchors

NEW YORK (Reuters) - NBC could create Internet blogs for its top news anchors and celebrity interviewers as it seeks to maintain the appeal of U.S. network news, its top executive said on Tuesday.

NBC Universal Television Group President Jeff Zucker said entering the generally opinionated world of blogs might be one way television networks could keep their grip on viewers who increasingly use the Internet for news.

"Over the next two years, network news is going to go through a lot more changes," Zucker said at a Yahoo (Nasdaq:YHOO - news) conference on high-speed Internet use. "This is one of the biggest issues facing traditional network news divisions."

NBC Blog for Top News Anchors

Monday, April 18, 2005

Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News

NEW YORK — Brian Williams is aware of the behind-the-scenes sniping about his succeeding Tom Brokaw on NBC Nightly News, a historic network changing of the guard that will occur Dec. 2.

Wiliams believes it's vitally important for reporters to get out of New York and Washington in order to do their jobs well.

He knows that some critics think he's no Brokaw, that behind his tanned, handsome face and well-cut suits is something of a lightweight. He has heard that there are those at NBC News who think that the Nightly franchise, which nets a cool $90 million a year, could lose steam with him at the helm.

"It's the ultimate subjective business," says Williams, 45. "We put ourselves on the line and say, 'Please invite us into your home,' and everyone is free to have at it. That's one of the great things about a democracy. People are completely entitled to their opinions, and I go home after the broadcast and go to sleep at night. My wife and children seem to like me quite a bit, and as long as that is true — people find this amazing — I'm really OK."

But perhaps to dispel another idea that some people have — that this college dropout is a bit of a snob — Williams picks a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint, linoleum tables and all, to meet for lunch.

He swears it's the best pizza in town as he wolfs down two slices, chased by a can of Pepsi. He also may be showing off a bit: He points to his framed photo on a wall, next to one of John Spencer of The West Wing fame.

After spending much of the past year on the road, Williams says, his game plan as anchor of the No. 1-rated U.S. newscast is simple.

"I've got to get out a lot," he says. "The New York-Washington axis can be a journalist's worst enemy. Stories have a funny way of sneaking up on you, and the American people have a funny way of deciding what their reality is. You've got to spend a night in Dayton and Toledo and Cincinnati and Denver and in the middle of Kansas."

An example of the kind of story Williams likes to report came this fall when he flew to Dundee, Mich., to take the pulse at Cabela's, the popular hunting and fishing mail-order house whose megastores draw 4 million customers a year.

Williams reported — presciently in light of President Bush's re-election — that Cabela's customers were a force to be reckoned with: God-fearing conservatives who like guns, fishing and the outdoors, and that in 2000, "six in 10 gun owners voted for President Bush."

One hunter, a young woman, told Williams in a checkout line that she had already picked the tree she'd shoot from when deer season opens.

Recalling that day, Williams says: "I own an air rifle, mostly to scare the deer in our backyard, but I wanted to go back to our newsroom and say, 'Guys, this is who you don't know. While we haven't been watching, this is what America has become.' Not to pander, not to customize the news, but a newscast that forgets what its audience has become and takes its eye off the ball in terms of what America is, is doomed to failure."

A different role

There is nothing wrong with reporting feature stories from the heartland, says network news analyst Andrew Tyndall — unless you are about to inherit the most powerful anchor chair in the country.

In that role, Tyndall says, millions of viewers look to you to synthesize crucial public policy issues with state, national and world leaders, not to shoot the breeze in barbershops or, while reporting on Hurricane Isabel in September 2003, to see how Nemo the clown fish fared at a pet store in Virginia Beach.

"Williams going for 'vox pop' stories is like saying Charles Kuralt will replace Walter Cronkite," Tyndall says, referring to the late CBS "On the Road" essayist.

But Williams has a different take on the role of the modern network news anchor. "When I land in a foreign place — let's take Tel Aviv — if I'm traveling with a cameraman, and he says, 'Look, have you ever seen so much barbed wire?' I say, 'Shoot it.' We are surrogates for our audience. We are representing them back home, and I try to keep that eye wherever I am."

In the past week, Williams has been reporting from Israel on the effect that Yasser Arafat's fading medical condition has had on the volatile situation there.

Instead of the obvious network anchor move, a sit-down with Israeli leader Ariel Sharon, Williams has checked in with Palestinians in a coffeehouse in Ramallah about a future without Arafat and with bus riders in Jerusalem about the specter of being blown up by a suicide bomb.

That's vintage Williams, says Steve Capus, Nightly's producer, who has known Williams since the '80s, when they were both in local news in Philadelphia. Williams' strength, Capus says, is connecting with ordinary people. And at a time when many Americans think the media are out of touch, Williams' reporting style may appeal to them.

"Sure, it's not the same as sitting down with Sharon, but in many ways Brian's stories convey the overall bigger-picture story," Capus says. "And if his experience can be used to relate a bigger story, then that's what we're going to do."

Williams' "biggest hurdle is that he's going to have to make this broadcast his own," Capus says. "This is now Tom's broadcast, and Brian has a different style and to some degree different sensibilities. It's going to take some time for him to hit his stride."

Brokaw has urged Williams to put his own stamp on Nightly, just as Brokaw did with stories about the environment and World War II veterans.To that end, viewers can expect stories on the presidency, the subject of a book that Williams is writing. They also can expect to continue to see Brokaw frequently, starting with Bush's inauguration. "I'd like Tom to file whatever is on his mind. I owe him everything," Williams says.

And in his spare time ...

Williams has more plebian interests than his soon-to-be rivals, CBS' Dan Rather, 73, a friend from CBS days, and ABC's Peter Jennings, 66.

A onetime volunteer firefighter, Williams talks excitedly about the prospect of handling hoses and climbing ladders again on an upcoming story. He has been a stock-car racing fan since childhood days at the Chemung Speedrome near Elmira, N.Y., and is part owner of a dirt-track stock car team.

"No one understands this NASCAR nation more than Brian," says NBC president Jeff Zucker, who once produced Nightly News for Brokaw.

Zucker admits to some apprehension around NBC about the upcoming switch, but he attributes the butterflies not to concern about Williams' abilities, but to the fact that there hasn't been an anchor change since Brokaw and Jennings were both named anchors in 1983.

Zucker notes that every time Williams has subbed for Brokaw, even for long periods of time, Nightly's eight-year No. 1 rank has held.

But critics point out that's because Brokaw's fans always knew he would return. They point out that on CNBC's The News With Brian Williams, its anchor failed to move the needle much — one reason why rival anchors see the upcoming switch as an opportunity.

Viewers of both morning and evening news shows are intensely loyal and won't shop around unless there's a reason to. Now they have one, says Jim Murphy, who produces Rather on The CBS Evening News. "Any change is good for competition."

But Murphy notes that NBC has a strong news operation that will be tough to topple, especially with a pro like Williams in the anchor chair.

Friendly competition

Williams "is clearly skilled," says Jennings, but he has no plans to change anything about World News now that he'll have new anchor competition.

Jennings predicts that just as he, Brokaw and Rather all have had areas of interest in which they excelled, so too will Williams. Watching Williams in Israel this past week, Jennings says, he smiled and thought, "Oh, boy, been there, done that."

On air, Williams' delivery can be a bit formal, which Williams attributes to "a couple of years of Catholic schooling." He's on his best behavior, he says, as if he were a guest for the first time in someone's home.

"I tend to think this is important business we're conducting," he says, very seriously. "Since 9/11, I can't remember a broadcast with a light moment, so that's how I defend it."

But off air, Williams is a cutup, known for his one-liners and practical jokes.

Murphy says that back in the '80s, on his last day at WCBS-TV, a phone call from Williams had Murphy thinking for a few seconds that it really was President Reagan calling to wish him well.

"Back then, there was nobody more fun to be around," Murphy says, an opinion that is seconded today by many NBC colleagues. "He's just a good guy to be around."

(Thank You USA TODAY)

Brian Williams

Brian Williams

Since joining NBC News in 1993, Brian Williams has become one of the nation’s most accomplished and acclaimed anchors and traveling correspondents.

HIS LIVE, nightly hour-long newscast, The News with Brian Williams, has established a new brand of journalistic style and excellence. The broadcast is proud to count many of the nation’s lawmakers and opinion-makers among its nightly audience, and his work has been praised by many television critics and national publications.

In May 2002, it was announced that Williams is to become the anchor of NBC Nightly News effective December 1, 2004, taking over for Tom Brokaw. It was the first such announced changed in the major network news anchors in over two decades. He was the NBC News Chief White House correspondent from 1994-1996, and was the anchor and managing editor of the Saturday edition of NBC Nightly News for six years. Williams is perhaps best known for his trademark ability to quickly and comprehensively pull together the elements of a breaking news story, combine it with historic context, and report it from either a world hot spot or while live on the air each evening.

In over 20 years of broadcasting, Williams has reported from 23 overseas nations on countless stories of national and international importance, including intensive live coverage of the September 11th attacks and their aftermath. After his election night coverage of the 2000 Presidential race, he was named Best Anchor by USA Today. In 1997, his continuous coverage of the death of Princess Diana was watched by countless millions worldwide on the networks of NBC. Millions also watched his many hours of live coverage following the crash of TWA Flight 800 and the death of John F. Kennedy, Jr. GQ magazine has called him “the most interesting man in television today,” and in 2001 he surpassed all others in broadcast news to be named GQ’s Man of the Year.

Among other overseas assignments, Williams covered the historic election of Nelson Mandela in South Africa, the Arafat-Rabin Mideast peace agreement from Jericho and Jerusalem, and the 50th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. Williams has anchored live newscasts from the Middle East, Russia and Europe on numerous occasions.

While serving as NBC News’ Chief White House correspondent, Williams circled the world several times, accompanying President Clinton aboard Air Force One and covering virtually every foreign and domestic trip by the President during his years covering Mr. Clinton. On perhaps one of the most historic trips of the Clinton Presidency, Williams was the only television news correspondent to accompany three U.S. presidents - Clinton, Bush, and Carter - to Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral in Israel.

Williams has been awarded three Emmys: for his 1987 coverage of the stock market crash, his 1993 coverage of the Iowa floods, and in 2001 for his live coverage of the crash of a Singapore Airlines 747 in Taiwan. The National Father’s Day Committee named him “Father of the Year” in 1996. He is known to late night audiences as a regular guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O’Brien and The Late Show with David Letterman.

Prior to joining NBC News, Williams spent seven years at CBS’s owned-and-operated stations division as anchor and correspondent for WCBS-TV in New York, where he covered the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. He began his service at CBS as a correspondent for the network-owned WCAU-TV in Philadelphia and was a correspondent at WTTG-TV in Washington, D.C. He started his broadcasting career “doing everything but operating the transmitter,” as he puts it, at KOAM-TV in Pittsburg, Kansas

Prior to his broadcasting career, Williams worked in the White House during the Carter administration, beginning as a White House intern. He later worked as Assistant Administrator of the Political Action Committee of the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington. A native of both Elmira, New York, and Middletown, New Jersey, Williams is very proud of his several years of service as a volunteer firefighter in New Jersey.

Williams attended George Washington University and the Catholic University of America, both in Washington, and is the recipient of honorary Doctorates from Elmira College and Providence College. He and his wife, Jane Stoddard Williams, have two children.

© 2005 MSNBC Interactive