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Brokaw on terrorism, the state of the media

Former anchor nominated to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
/ Source: msnbc.com

Former 'NBC Nightly News' anchor Tom Brokaw will be inducted into the Academy of Arts and Sciences this weekend. The academy includes leaders from businesses, the arts, media, academia and public affairs. 

Before the ceremony, he took time to talk with MSNBC's Natalie Morales about terrorism as well as the state of the media.

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

NATALIE MORALES: Of course we all know that you were in the anchor chair during 9/11 and the anthrax scare, which directly affected you and your staff.  As we hear somewhat of the mixed signals we're getting today with this new terror alert in New York, what questions do you think the American public should be asking with this latest threat?

TOM BROKAW:  I think in New York, it's slightly unique because we probably are the best-prepared city in the country.  Ray Kelly and the NYPD, Mayor Bloomberg and his whole security apparatus carry on the work started by Rudy Giuliani.  We're better prepared here when there is a threat of some kind and the systems are in place.  I think in the rest of the country, in the rural areas people can feel obviously very secure.  It's unlikely terrorists are going to visit places like Kankakee, Illinois or remote parts of the Great Plains or Southwest.  But I think the real questions are: What are we doing about this internationally besides fighting the war in Iraq?  What are we doing to not just break up these networks that exist out there but try to close the gap between those young radical Muslims and the Western ideals -- rule of law, tolerance and modernity?

MORALES:  How do you think the War on Terror has changed since 9/11?  Do you think Osama bin Laden really is public enemy number one here?

BROKAW:  Well, I did a long documentary on it earlier this summer called "The Long War."  It's going to go on for a while. What we learned during the course of what's reported in that documentary is it's now not a centralized control system.  Osama bin Laden is still a very important symbolic figure.  He still does have command of cells but what has happened is in an amoeba-like fashion, it's broken up.  They operate now by sending couriers with hard disks out of computers on motor bikes across really remote parts of the Middle East that communicate with one another and they operate with much smaller cells and out of much smaller outfits that makes them in some ways more dangerous because they're harder to attack.

We know as well from the insurgency in Iraq that there is still an enormous amount of anti-American passion that exists in that part of the world and if that continues to fuel the insurgency, it also continues to fuel the idea of a terrorist attack in this country.

MORALES:  I also wanted to ask you ... as you're inducted in the Academy of Arts and Sciences, there is a major shift in the nightly evening news as we know it, beginning first with the anchors who are in the chairs nowadays.  Where do you think the future of news is going?

BROKAW:  Well, I'm very heartened by it.  I like the idea of all the choices that we have, including MSNBC.  When I first got involved in this business there were only two networks and they put the news on when they were ready, not when audience wanted it.  Now it's the other way around.  I do think that we have to be constantly careful that we keep the quality.  That we don't all rush to the lowest common denominator.  You can't overlook the importance of the Internet in all of this Natalie.  You're tied into MSNBC.com and the instant access that you can have to that.  The instrumentation is getting smaller all the time.  Cell phones will very quickly be portable electronic communication device and Internet access devices as they are in some cases.  I'm going off to Europe next week and the first thing I want to ask is do I have my Blackberry internationally registered so I can check my emails?