The Daily Nightly from NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams

About this blog

The Daily Nightly began on May 31, 2005. As Brian wrote in his first post it aims to provide a narrative of the broadcast day and a window into the editorial process at NBC Nightly News. Brian weighs in every weekday and NBC News correspondents and producers post regularly.

Brian Williams became the seventh anchor and managing editor in the history of NBC Nightly News on December 2, 2004. Read his full biography.

A 'decent' guy

Today's afternoon editorial meeting was one of those rare occasions.  Let me put it this way: President Ford had no detractors at this meeting.  Everyone was in a contemplative mood -- the conversation centered around our coverage, and making sure we have the very best elements needed to tell his uniquely American story. 

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Remembering Gerald Ford

The phone rang at my home last night with the bad news from California. I was told that moments after I hung up, it would be announced officially that President Gerald Ford had died.

Our news division, along with all others, print and broadcast, had been prepared for this news for some time. And it is during these times that our roles merge: as humans and as journalists, we are so often pulled in different directions. My daughter came into our bedroom and said "I'm sorry about President Ford," sweetly noting that I had gotten to know the former President late in life. Moments later I was asked to contribute to MSNBC's live coverage, speaking via telephone.

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Remembering Frank Stanton

It was the most profound eulogy any of us had ever heard.  One morning in 1993, Dr. Frank Stanton stood in the well of the auditorium of the Museum of Broadcasting in New York, having lost his best friend, former CBS News President Dick Salant.  Dr. Stanton was, at age 85, lean and stout, impeccably dressed, his white hair slicked back as it always was.  The weathered and carved features of his face were contorted in sadness as he looked up from his text and explained to the gathered mourners, with a single phrase, the impact of Dick's death on his life: "In my sadness, I yield to no one."

It was, in a way that was painful to watch, classic Stanton: sincere, austere, terse, and quite perfect. It could not be challenged.
 

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The last chapter

This is our last weekday pre-Christmas break broadcast. We have a ton of news for this time of year, and there are folks we ought to be thinking of tonight. A lot of them. Tonight we will take time to pay tribute to the thousands who have volunteered to defend the country, and who tonight are on post in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Korean DMZ. We will report on the thousands of people who spent the night at the airport in Denver. Some of them are just now coming to grips with the notion of spending Christmas in a Denver hotel room... instead of with loved ones as they had intended. And a sidebar PR question for the FAA: After 4,700 people spent the night in the airport terminal after a crippling blizzard, why was the first aircraft allowed to take off (an event covered live on both local news and  national cable news) a FedEx cargo wide body jet? I realize FedEx carries valuable goods and meaningful packages, especially this time of year, but aren't passengers -- human passengers -- the priority? Was it a too-linear reading of takeoff order or was there a good reason for it? Since the picture of the "first departure from DIA" was shown all over the world today, just asking...

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Getting there

Picture your favorite people -- your partner, your parents, a kindly grandmother, a cute 3-year-old nephew, a brother or sister. And now picture them camping out for a second day on the floor of Denver's airport. Or napping in the departure lounge at O'Hare. All they want to do is get where they're going for Christmas. That's what's happening right now as weather makes a mess of the pre-Christmas travel plans across this country, and across the pond, where Heathrow is socked in, thanks to that strange "freezing fog" they get this time of year. We'll cover the prognosis and ramifications tonight. We'll also have the latest on the trouble Congressman Goode is in for something he said... and printed... and sent out. Lisa Myers has a special report on Iraq tonight, and we have a special segment on the definition of victory in Iraq -- a question we pose to some prominent thinkers. We'll look at the economy during this run-up to Christmas, and how's this for a tease: Bob Bazell has a look at a "big-boned" individual we'll be introduced to tonight.

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Meeting the press

Our day began with President Bush's appearance in a rare venue for a news conference: the Indian Treaty Room of the Old (Eisenhower) Executive Office Building. As a former White House intern who used to regularly conduct tours, I remember only some of the details of that room: its elaborate inlaid floor, and the desk drawer, which bears the signatures of American vice presidents going back many administrations. If memory serves, it was formerly the official office of the vice president, before the modern era when they moved to the West Wing. The end-of-year news conference was an interesting session, regardless of the setting. While the President put off some questions due to his upcoming strategy speech on Iraq, he answered plenty of them, and we have a lot of material to go over tonight. Kelly O'Donnell will have our report from the White House. Jim Miklaszewski will have a follow-up on the story about enlarging the military, and Tim Russert will look at the politics of all that is going on.

The weather is in the news tonight, as we need not tell you if you live in Denver. We will soon look at the videotape from our NBC station there, KUSA. This storm has already caused big problems with the Denver airport (the huge United hub) where any disruption is felt across the national grid. They are expecting 3 1/2 feet of snow just outside Boulder from this storm. It's a huge low pressure system, and so it's moving counter-clockwise over the Rockies -- and it looks strange to see weather moving from East to West across any part of the country.

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In search of...

We have a ton of important and compelling stories -- now it's down to ordering them. No sooner had I returned to my office after the editorial meeting, concerned about time allotments and a crowded broadcast rundown -- when I looked up at my television and saw white smoke coming from the top of Mount St. Helen's in Washington state. Can there please be no more news involving mountains in the Pacific Northwest? 

That brings us to one story we'll be covering tonight: the climbers. I've detected in my TV watching a real up-tick over the past 24 hours in the number of voices questioning such elaborate rescue efforts and the expenditure -- given the fact that three experienced men made a conscious decision to climb a dangerous mountain. It's a very dicey area where life and death is concerned. Tonight we'll touch on the cost, while largely leaving the debate over it to others.

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DELIVERING THE NEWS

Having started the day with no voice, I have spent much it in my office avoiding conversation and trying to coax a croak into enough of a noise to get me through a half hour of television. I felt awful when correspondent Janet Shamlian brought her very cute little daughter by my office for a visit earlier today: at that point in the day, I was making sounds audible only to whales -- and I'm afraid she left here wondering who the scary man was. I will make an azithromycin-and-tea-fueled attempt to get through the broadcast this evening, having come down with the same upper-respiratory thing that millions seem to be battling.

How we'll begin the broadcast is still a bit up in the air. We just exited the 2:30 editorial meeting, and the problem is not a shortage of stories. The sad discovery on Mount Hood is among the stories we'll cover. The search effort continues, and conditions today aren't quite what they were yesterday. Many family members spoke to the assembled media today, amid the backdrop of sadness and trepidation with each passing day. Just this past hour, the family of Kelly James has confirmed that it was indeed his body. The Vietnam-era Chinook helicopters we've been watching are still the workhorses of the Army and Army Reserve -- they all have a ton of miles and flying hours on them -- and while they've been retrofitted over the years (with new avionics, regular engine changes, etc.), those airframes are the originals. I flew on several in Iraq with Gen. Wayne Downing, U.S. Army, ret., who was able to point out the patched-up bullet holes in one Chinook's skin dating back to the Vietnam war. One Iraq-based Army Chinook I flew in still had a vintage canvas bag for shell casings from the door-mounted machine gun, bearing a stenciled date from the 1960s. In this case (and as is common in aviation), maintenance and upkeep often matter more than the age of the airframe -- as evidenced by the hard work those helicopters are doing, along with their Black Hawk brethren, in some nasty weather atop Mount Hood over these past few days... and in hostile, unforgiving places elsewhere on the planet.

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ABOUT TONIGHT

Another jumble of important news stories -- many more than we have time for, and it makes the order a tricky equation.  The markets had another good day today as well.

It's been a rough go in the Pacific Northwest. Mission Ridge in Washington State recorded an overnight wind gust of 135 mph -- and SeaTac  airport in Seattle recorded its fourth highest wind gust ever.  The Weather Channel is running dramatic video from yesterday of what appears to be a 757 doing a go-around in an unstable landing attempt in what looks like freakish crosswinds. All of this weather is happening during a huge military search for three climbers.  We'll have reports on each tonight.

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THE AFTERMATH

At the time of my post at this very same hour yesterday, there was a lot we didn't know -- and as far as we knew, control of the Senate was quite possibly in the balance.  While we now have more information, the latter technically remains true.  I'm happy to report that based on all the available information from official sources and others, Senator Johnson has passed through the darkest hours.  As I said on the air last night -- and this bears repeating -- our thoughts and prayers are with this public servant and his family as they face this challenge and enter into this fight.  While I just looked up at the TV and saw two people manipulating a plastic brain with a hinged top (to illustrate what happened to Senator Johnson) we're all trying to make clear that all of our coverage, at its root, is about a man in big medical trouble who may emerge from this a very lucky man indeed.

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