TVGuide.com: Midterm elections usually aren't too sexy. Yet it seems like there is a lot more attention on it this year, not just because of the nature of the races, but also because it feels like an opening night for all three of the network anchors.
Brian Williams: I've done hours of election-night coverage on MSNBC. When we were doing it there, we treated it as nothing less than network-quality election night.... It's a natural coming together of all we do for a living. The reason I am bullish that we can offer something that will not be seen anywhere else is I've got Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert on either side of me.
TVGuide.com: We haven't seen a lot of Tom Brokaw on the network lately. Tell me about the decision to have him there.
Williams: It was a natural. As I've said to others, not to invite Tom to take part in election-night coverage is like having Joe DiMaggio on your bench but not in your lineup. It wouldn't make any sense.
TVGuide.com: But does it send a message of stability and experience at your network doesn't it? Especially, after all the changes at the other places.
Williams: I'll buy that. I think it says great things about our operation. We have all of this talent assembled in this one room.
TVGuide.com: The continuous Decision 2006 coverage that's been on MSNBC in recent days has put the familiar faces of NBC News on screen more. Is this a way to rebrand the news channel?
Williams: I don't know if it sticks beyond election time. It's proven very popular on the staff. Campbell Brown was excited for her hour Wednesday, and I was on Monday. It's a lot of fun. They hand you the keys to the car and ask you what guests would you like to have on. I said I'd like to debrief [political analyst] Charlie Cook at the top of the hour and they said, "You've got it." It's great. We get to throw all the superfluous subject matter out of the room. If you're into politics, this is the locker room.
TVGuide.com: Why haven't they gone to you guys more often to work on MSNBC?
Williams: I could argue that they are now. I think their stated goal is to see us a lot more often.
TVGuide.com: In the days after the announcement that Katie Couric was taking over the CBS Evening News, you said with Karl Rove-like certainty that you were still going to be No. 1 in the ratings. Why did you feel that way then, and why do you think that's turned out to be the case?
Williams: I know how good we are at what we do. I know this team I work with everyday. It's the same the great production team that ran the Nightly News under Tom. The reason everyone is still in place here is that these people are awfully good at what they do, and I had reason to believe I would put the best broadcast on the air. I've been preaching that we should stick to our knitting. I think the best broadcast finds its audience.
TVGuide.com: Do you think it's tricky to try to reinvent the evening news?
Williams: This is the last great committed audience of habit in American television. They don't take kindly to great sweeping changes all the time, and they expect a certain recitation of the day's events. That is what I've always vowed to give them. I don't take changes to our broadcast lightly. We discuss even minor changes thoroughly. It's important to keep Nightly News what we've established for the last several decades.
TVGuide.com: Tell me about your earliest memory of election night?
Williams: I remember my father being very happy about the Lyndon Johnson election. But I certainly remember how contentious 1968 was. I had a brother who was a bona fide hippie, so Vietnam and issues of war and peace were big in our house. These have been the mileposts of my life. You're talking to someone who wrote President Johnson at age 7. It's always been catnip to me.
TVGuide.com: Who was on in your house in those years?
Williams: The duo my grandmother would call "Hinkley-Binkley" [The Huntley-Brinkly Report]. She could never pronounce it right. My mother loved Chet Huntley. My father loved Walter Cronkite. So we were a split loyalty family between NBC and CBS.
TVGuide.com: And it was the days before remote control was common so they probably sent you running up to the set to change the channel.
Williams: Uh-huh. Remember, you had to go slowly because if you ever whipped it from channel 2 all the way around, your father would say, "You're going to break the tuner!" It was like touching the thermostat.