NEW YORK (AP) -- It's considered one of the top three jobs in broadcast journalism. And until this week, there hadn't been an opening for nearly two decades.
On Tuesday, NBC announced that Tom Brokaw would step down as anchor of NBC's "Nightly News" after the 2004 presidential election, to be succeeded by Brian Williams.
Williams, 43, has been Brokaw's primary substitute and host of his own nightly newscast on MSNBC and CNBC. Ever since he was a boy growing up in Elmira, N.Y., and especially when he started his journalism career, he said he wanted to anchor the network evening news.
"You're looking at a very, very happy guy," he said Tuesday.
The 62-year-old Brokaw will continue to be host of NBC News specials after relinquishing his top anchor role in November 2004.
While evening news ratings steadily declined for more than two decades, its anchor position is still considered the networks' glamour role. The national influence of Brokaw, ABC's Peter Jennings and CBS' Dan Rather were cemented by their marathon newscasts after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
With Tuesday's announcement, NBC becomes the first network to publicly put a succession plan in place. Brokaw took over for John Chancellor in 1983, and Jennings and Rather have each been at their jobs even longer.
Both Brokaw and Williams signed new long-term contracts, with terms undisclosed. Brokaw was believed to make at least $7 million a year already, and NBC News President Neal Shapiro said he didn't take a pay cut. Williams' deal was believed to be for at least five years.
Choosing the end of November 2004 to leave "Nightly News" was arbitrary, Brokaw conceded, but he said he wanted to work through one more presidential election.
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