“Nightly News” becomes the news

For the first time in memory, NBC Nightly News became the lead item on NBC Nightly News Friday, when it was reported that an assistant to Tom Brokaw, the program’s anchor, had contracted anthrax after opening an envelope that had been sent to Brokaw in late September. Brokaw, in an interview on NBC’s Dateline later in the evening, fought to compose himself after he was asked whether he was concerned for himself and others who work on the network news program.

“Sure, I’m mostly very angry. … It is an outrage,” Brokaw replied, then visibly gulped as he continued, “And what makes it hard is that it wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t worked for me. … No one should be put in harm’s way for simply working for me. This employee was — is — family, in a way, and it’s been very tough.”

On Sunday, Dateline reported that a second NBC News employee who had retrieved another letter found to have contained anthrax had also tested positive for exposure to the disease. At the end of the East Coast broadcast, reporter John Siegenthaler appeared on camera to voice a “clarification” of the original report, saying that the employee had not tested positive for the disease, but had shown “symptoms” of it. The Dateline report was revised for the West Coast feed.