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The Author Speaks

Tom Brokaw on 'The Time of Our Lives'

The veteran broadcaster weighs in on Social Security, Medicare, being a grandparent and news today

Q. From 1983 to 2004, you were the sole anchor of the NBC Nightly News. But 10 years from now, will there be a televised evening news show as we know it today?

A. My guess is that there will be; I don't know how large the audience will be because with every evolving generation there's less interest. [But] the numbers are still very big. [And] we find that when there's a national crisis, a natural disaster or a big political story, people come to the evening news.

Cable is a huge player but it still has much smaller numbers. Bill O'Reilly is very popular on cable, no question about it. But he would be kind of a distant fourth if he were measured against Diane [Sawyer on ABC] and Scott [Pelley on CBS] and Brian [Williams on NBC] in the evening news.

Q. Do you see the format of the evening news changing at all?

A. In a half hour it's very tough. I would hope that in the next 10 years — it's been a longtime hope of mine, so far unrealized — that we would get to an hour on the evening news and maybe even [put it] in prime time.

Q. Are you concerned about the future of serious journalism?

A. There's more of it [now] than you realize. A lot of your readers — present company included — remember a time when you could just be a couch potato. You could get up in the morning, pick up the paper from the front porch, watch the Today show, go to work, come home and check the evening news. And you were going to be in pretty good shape.

Q. But that was before the Internet.

A. It's a much more complicated world now. There are thousands more choices on the Internet and on cable TV. You have to work harder at determining where you're going to get your news and how much of it you can trust. But that's the role of an active citizen.

Q. So how have things changed for the "couch potato" you were just describing?

A. I grew up in South Dakota when television was in its infancy, but if I were back there now, I could get up in the morning, read Politico online or one of the other political websites, I could read the Financial Times of London, check out the New York Times, and read some of the think-tank publications from the Brookings Institution or the Council on Foreign Relations.

Q. What about investigative journalism?

A. Look at Pro Publica. When Paul Steiger left the Wall Street Journal [in 2007], he went out and started this investigative journalism website … and they've won two Pulitzers! There's very good work that's being done.

Journalism will not go out of fashion. It's just being reinvented in terms of its form. We're in the middle of the second big bang. We're just not sure which of these planets is going to survive and support a life form.

Q. You mentioned in a recent TV interview with Stephen Colbert that you practice yoga at home. Are you still doing that?

A. I just did this morning. I don't want your readers to get the impression that I'm a yoga master or aficionado. But I do find it helps start the day. At this age [there are] aches and pains, and I'm trying to deal with them.

Q. What other kinds of exercise do you do?

A. I'm big on bicycling. Right after this interview, I'm going to go biking. [When I'm in New York] I bike in Central Park. Then, if I really want to get my heart started, I get out of the park and go onto Madison Avenue or Park Avenue and try to ride like a New York bicycle messenger. That's terrifying, worse than going to a war zone.

Evelyn Renold is based in New York.

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