Brian Williams’ departure from “NBC Nightly News” draws a curtain on an era of almighty evening news anchors.
The legendary CBS newsman Walter Cronkite defined the network anchor in the 1960s and ’70s as a trusted, calm paternal figure providing a steady presence during turbulent times. Williams, 55, idolized Cronkite and developed his own strong persona that was reminiscent of the days when the news divisions of the Big Three networks – ABC, CBS and NBC – dominated the media landscape before cable and the Internet arrived.
Now that Williams is leaving the broadcast to a new role anchoring breaking news at MSNBC, there are no evening news anchors with $10-million-plus salaries or the kind of big personalities that make viewers refer to them on a first-name basis. Williams’ association with “NBC Nightly News” was so strong, NBC News President Deborah Turness once said that in research studies, viewers used the word “he” when talking about the broadcast.