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Brian Williams lets work talk

`People know we're out there,' NBC newsman says as ABC and CBS tout their new anchors.

July 22, 2006|Matea Gold | Times Staff Writer

ABC and CBS may be gearing up major promotional campaigns to tout the merits of their new evening news anchors as they head into the fall season, but NBC's Brian Williams said Friday that he will let his work on the top-rated "NBC Nightly News" speak for itself.

"I've got to believe that given where we are, people know we're out there and know what they will get from us," Williams told reporters assembled in Pasadena for the semiannual television press tour. "We're the constant."

Indeed, ever since he succeeded Tom Brokaw in December 2004, the 47-year-old anchor has been the only regular presence on a network evening newscast as ABC shuffled anchors in the wake of Peter Jennings' death and CBS replaced Dan Rather with Bob Schieffer, who soon will be succeeded by Katie Couric.

In that time, NBC has continued to draw the largest audience, even though the margin between all three broadcasts has narrowed this season.

ABC has already begun promotional spots to showcase Charles Gibson, who took over "World News" in May, and CBS is ramping up a massive ad campaign to draw attention to Couric's arrival in September. But Williams said he's unconcerned that the focus on his new competitors will hurt the "NBC Nightly News."

"To this question, I have quoted our great president from the commonwealth of Massachusetts: A rising tide lifts all boats," Williams said, noting that the three broadcasts combined remain the largest source of news in the country.

"Here we are in a world of 600 channels, all these websites and all these podcasts, and yet Americans -- in, I think, very large numbers for our day and age -- sit down and make it appointment viewing, maybe because there's so much other stuff and this is kind of where they go for reasoned, sober analysis of the day," Williams added. "So that there is all this talk about the time slot and this competition can only be good. It makes us better. It keeps us on our game."

Williams and Gibson both spent four days in the Middle East this week, returning to New York on the same flight Thursday.

NBC News President Steve Capus said Friday that he wanted to cycle new staff members into the region to avoid burnout, adding that Williams may return.

"The perspective that he came back with will serve him for decades," Capus said in an interview. "You can have the most talented reporters in the room telling you what it's like and what they're seeing, but there's still nothing like seeing it for yourself."

That said, Capus noted that the news division is taking extra precautions to keep its staff safe in the wake of the serious wounds suffered by ABC's Bob Woodruff and CBS' Kimberly Dozier this year.

"I'd love to have an interview with the head of Hezbollah today and we have people who would like to try to do that," he said. "And if they called me today and said, 'I booked that interview,' I would have to think long and hard about whether I would send them out to do it."

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