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Tom Brokaw Gives Some Advice to Student Reporters
By London Ball, 10, and Taylor Warden, 10
Scholastic Student Reporters


From left: London Ball, Taylor Warden, Ryan Nuckolls, and Caleb Hoferman talk to Tom Brokaw at the Aces Teen Center in Newton, Iowa. (Photo: Suzanne Freeman)
Sunday, January 18—Today we met with famous TV reporter Tom Brokaw minutes before he went on air to anchor NBC Nightly News. We wanted to find out what inspired him to become a reporter. He gave us tips on how to conduct a good interview, and he shared his opinions on the key issues and candidates in the 2004 presidential election. Brokaw has been covering presidential elections for almost 30 years. He will be retiring after this year's election.

Brokaw's interest in becoming a journalist started when he was a young boy in South Dakota.

"When I was your age, literally, I was really curious about everything that was going on around me," he said. "I would come home every night and tell my parents and my brother what was going on around me. So, I think it was a natural instinct. I think that in society it is really helpful to know what is going on so you can figure out how you want to live your own life."

In Iowa, reporters are listening to the presidential candidates talk about why they want to be President and what they will do if elected. "We listen to them and we have to examine what they say," he said.

Brokaw has been a reporter since 1962, and was eager to share some advice with us on how to be a good reporter:

"You want to ask questions that are very specific and not just general questions, like, so how are you feeling?" Brokaw told Scholastic News Online reporters. "When you report a story, it's just telling a best friend something that happened to you, and you tell them in a way that you tell them all the details of it; you tell it quite efficiently, and you tell them in a way that it has a real good punch line. That's what being a reporter is all about."

When we asked Tom Brokaw about his opinion on the key issues and candidates, we learned another important tip about being a reporter. "A reporter must always stay neutral," he said. "I don't give my opinion on some of these issues."

Brokaw was willing to share that this election is one of the most interesting campaigns he has ever reported on in his career.

"I've been coming [to the Iowa caucuses] since 1976 and there have been some great ones," he said, "but we've never had one where there have been four candidates in the last 24 hours who are bunched right together; boom. And you know how the caucuses work. It's not just being popular. You have go out and get your people there."

And did reporting on every presidential election since 1968 give Brokaw any ideas about launching his own presidential campaign one day? Brokaw was quick with a reply, and a smile, "No, I would never want to run for President. And believe me, America is much better off that way!"