Tom Brokaw anchored NBC’s “Nightly News” for 22 years. He was, while on the air, a mostly fair and balanced journalist (but since his retirement he’s shown a decidedly liberal bent).
Still, in his heyday, Brokaw appeared to seek out both sides of the story. He was a fan of Ronald Reagan and delivered one of the eulogies at the funeral of former First Lady Nancy Reagan.
But he doesn’t think today’s media is doing the job at all nowadays – and that it might even be “destructive.”
“I think the most extraordinarily powerful tool and the most destructive development in modern life is the current media,” the anchor told Artful Living in an interview.
Brokaw, 79, said it’s hard these days for people to figure out what’s true and what’s false.
“Everybody has a voice – and I think it’s great for people to have a voice – but there’s no way to verify what’s true and what’s not. It has no context; it’s just a 24/7 rage about what’s pissing people off across the board from the Left to the Right,” he told the magazine.
“It could be a unifying factor, but it’s a dividing factor, frankly. And that really troubles me as much as anything. I don’t know how we get beyond that. I don’t know what leader can come along and say, ‘Look, we’re all in this together. We’ve got to find a way to work together,’” he said.
While in private life Brokaw is clearly liberal, he said the current state of Washington is not good for Democrats or Republicans.
“This is obviously the most unsettling time I’ve ever experienced in national politics, and I’m not saying that just from an ideological point of view. I’m not saying that as a Democrat or a Republican. I’m saying that as a journalist and as a citizen and as a grandfather,” he said.
Brokaw, though, said former president Ronald Reagan pulled off the task of unifying America.
“Ronald Reagan was the best example of that in my lifetime. I was not a huge fan when he first started running, not for president, but for governor of California. Then I saw how skilled he was as governor at putting together that big, big state,” Brokaw said. “When he ran for president, I said, ‘Watch; he knows how to put people together.’ He had a really core set of beliefs, but he also had an engaging way about him. He had been a movie star.”
“He knew how you had to win people with your personality and how you went about your life. They would be for you or against you, and he had people for him. He also had the courage to have a really good staff. My friend Jim Baker was his chief of staff,” Brokaw continued.
But Brokaw said, “We don’t have a Reagan out there now who can pull it together. Bill Clinton also had that capability, by the way, but then he got tangled up with Monica [Lewinsky], which took a fair amount out of his résumé.”
He then laid out what America needs next.
“We need people who see the presidency as a coveted prize, but who understand that the objective is to bring the country together for common goals, and to outline those goals in a way so people can see why it’s important that we do this. And when we do it; everybody gets credit; everybody gets a part of it,” he said.