Tom Brokaw talks of politics, his work and the future of media during Poynter anniversary bash

Brokaw talks with Susie and Grover Wren and Christine and Donald Eastman, from Eckerd College. Jim Stem / The Poynter Institute

Brokaw talks with Poynter President Circle Member Hazel Hough, Mary Jane Park of the St. Petersburg Times and former Poynter Chair Eugene Patterson in Poynter’s Patterson Library. Jim Stem / The Poynter Institute

Brokaw relaxes in Poynter’s library with Jim Naughton, president emeritus of Poynter. The two both covered the White House as correspondents during the mid-1970s. Kenny Irby / The Poynter Institute

More than 200 people attended a dinner in Brokaw’s honor, hosted in Poynter’s Great Hall. Jim Stem / The Poynter Institute

Tom Brokaw, former anchor and managing editor of the NBC Nightly News, spoke to a group of more than 200 people on Poynter’s 35th anniversary. Jim Stem / The Poynter Institute

Roy Peter Clark, Poynter vice president, introduced Brokaw before his presentation. Jim Stem / The Poynter Institute

Explaining his cast, Brokaw told a story about breaking his ankle while riding an ATV on his ranch in Montana. Jim Stem / The Poynter Institute

The timing of Brokaw’s visit, during this mid-term election week made for lively political conversation. Jim Stem / The Poynter Institute

Poynter President Karen Dunlap and Chairman Paul Tash interviewed Brokaw and moderated questions taken from the audience. Jim Stem / The Poynter Institute

Brokaw talked of his reporting projects on the “greatest generation.” These were Americans born in the 1920s, who came of age during the Depression, fought in World War II and raised children of the Baby Boom. Jim Stem / The Poynter Institute

The conversation with Brokaw included time for questions from the audience. Jim Stem / The Poynter Institute

Brokaw with Poynter President Karen Dunlap, president emeritus Jim Naughton and president emeritus Bob Haiman after the Conversation. Jim Stem / The Poynter Institute

Tom Brokaw, former anchor and managing editor of the NBC Nightly News, touched on many topics as he addressed more than 200 people at Poynter’s 35th anniversary celebration.

With a pivotal mid-term election just days before, the timing of the event was apt. Brokaw, who has covered politics for more than four decades, had a lot to say about the major issues facing the country.

He wondered, for example, why war hadn’t been a larger part of the political debate.

He spoke of a recent Op-Ed he wrote for The New York Times, in which he talked about the small percentage of Americans who bear the emotional burden of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

By comparison, Brokaw said, the age group who lived through World War II had a unified commitment to the war effort. Brokaw refers to this group as “the greatest generation”—those Americans born in the 1920s, who came of age during the Depression, fought in World War II and raised Baby Boom children. Brokaw’s book, “The Greatest Generation,” was published in 1998.

As he answered questions, moderated by Poynter President Karen Dunlap and Poynter Chairman Paul Tash, Brokaw spoke of the changing, mobile habits of media consumers and the need for education about making sense of the world around us.

Being first on the scene of a story, writing well

When asked in an earlier interview with Mallary Tenore what advice he would give to today’s journalists, Brokaw focused on the importance of good writing and curiosity.

Journalists: learn to write. Text messaging is not writing,” he said. “Whether you’re writing for a newspaper, online or on the air, get better at writing.”

We’re still mid-passage in determining the impact of all this new technology,” said Brokaw. “We’re trying to absorb what it means to our individual lives and how it fits into a pattern that’s useful for us.”