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News anchor Brian Williams to receive Cronkite Award

April 06, 2009

Brian Williams, the anchor and managing editor of “NBC Nightly News,” the nation’s top-rated evening network newscast, will be this year’s recipient of the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism, Arizona State University announced.

Williams will receive the 26th Cronkite Award from ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at a luncheon ceremony Nov. 18 at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel.

“As someone who grew up idolizing Walter and having come to know him in adult life, I know that there is no greater name in our profession,” Williams said. “I only hope I am worthy of the meaning and tradition of this honor. Walter Cronkite is the only reason I entered the field of television journalism.”

Williams became the seventh anchor and managing editor of “NBC Nightly News” in 2004, replacing Tom Brokaw, who won the Cronkite Award three years ago.

Williams is the most honored network evening news anchor, the recipient of four Edward R. Murrow awards, five Emmys, the duPont-Columbia University Award and the George Foster Peabody Award. He also holds six honorary doctorates.

His award-winning work has included coverage of Hurricane Katrina, which the New York Times called “a defining moment as a network reporter and anchor.”

In 2007 Time magazine named him one of the 100 “People Who Shape Our World.” “Williams understands the new state of play in the media and even has a blog of his own,” former Time Managing Editor Walter Isaacson wrote. “Yet he is traditionalist enough to protect the concept of a national conversation, based on a shared common ground of facts and reporting and ideas.”

Williams started his TV news career at KOAM-TV in Pittsburgh, Kansas, before moving to major markets of Washington, Philadelphia and New York.

He joined NBC News in 1993 and the next year was named the network’s chief White House correspondent. From 1996 to 2003 he was anchor and managing editor of “The News with Brian Williams,” an hour-long nightly newscast on MSNBC and later CNBC. He also anchored the Saturday edition of “NBC Nightly News” before succeeding Tom Brokaw in late 2004.

He has covered most of the major stories of the past 16 years for NBC, including the Sept. 11 attacks, the Iraqi War and the past four presidential elections.

Previous Cronkite Award recipients include TV journalists Tom Brokaw, Bill Moyers and Jane Pauley; newspaper publishers Katharine Graham Al Neuharth and Otis Chandler; television executives Bill Paley, Frank Stanton and Ted Turner; and newspaper journalists Ben Bradlee,  Helen Thomas and Bob Woodward. Last year’s winners were Jim Lehrer and Robert MacNeil of PBS.

Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan said Williams is the ideal role model for today’s journalism students, “a great journalist who covers the news with depth and understanding in the best tradition of Walter Cronkite. We’re thrilled that Mr. Williams will be this year’s Cronkite Award recipient.”

Callahan credited John Misner, president-elect of the Cronkite Endowment Board of Trustees and president and general manager of KPNX-TV, the NBC affiliate in Phoenix, for securing the Williams’ visit.

“It’s extraordinarily difficult with Mr. Williams’ nightly news responsibilities to travel to Phoenix during the week, but his acceptance of the Cronkite Award is a great testament to both his very real affection for Mr. Cronkite and the hard work of John Misner,” Callahan said. “This will be a wonderful opportunity for our students to hear from today’s leading broadcast journalist.”

The Cronkite School was named in honor of the former CBS Evening News anchor in 1984. The nationally recognized school, which offers professional programs on the undergraduate and master’s levels, annually ranks in the Top 10 of the Hearst intercollegiate journalism competition.

In the past three years the school has added an array of new programs, including the Carnegie-Knight News21 Journalism Initiative, the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, the New Media Innovation Lab, the Reynolds High School Journalism Institute and Cronkite News Service.

The school also has added 20 new full-time professors, including former CNN anchor Aaron Brown, four top newspaper editors – Leonard Downie Jr. of The Washington Post, Tim McGuire of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Rick Rodriguez of the Sacramento Bee and Linda Austin of the Lexington Herald-Leader – and digital media leaders Dan Gillmor, Jody Brannon and Retha Hill.