TV newsman Brinkley dies

— David Brinkley, a pioneering TV journalist who became a household name delivering a sign-off he didn't even like, has died at 82.

"Neither of us liked it," Brinkley said a few years ago, referring to his NBC co-anchor Chet Huntley. "Two guys on the air saying good night to each other didn't look quite right."

But they had to close the newscast somehow, and "Good night, Chet," "Good night, David" did the trick. It also became a national catchphrase in the late 1950s as "The Huntley-Brinkley Report" fused those two newsmen into TV journalism's reigning force.

"It's hard to overstate the enormous impact they had on the country," NBC anchor Tom Brokaw said Thursday. "TV didn't have two bigger stars."

Brinkley died Wednesday at his home in Houston of complications from a fall.

He began the second act of his career in 1981 by moving to ABC News. There he flourished for another 15 years, particularly on "This Week with David Brinkley," where he reinvented the Sunday political talk show.

He won 10 Emmy awards, three George Foster Peabody Awards and, in 1992, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. He is the author of four books, including the forthcoming "Brinkley's Beat: People, Places, and Events That Shaped My Time," to be published in November.

But none of that quite conveys Brinkley's legendary status or his role in defining TV journalism despite his insistence, "I didn't create anything. I just got here early."

Born July 10, 1920, in Wilmington, N.C., he was still in high school when he began writing for his hometown newspaper. He attended the University of North Carolina and Vanderbilt University, and after Army service he worked in Southern bureaus for the United Press syndicate.

He moved to Washington, D.C., thinking a radio job awaited him at CBS News. Instead, he landed a job four blocks away at NBC News and became White House correspondent NBC's first.

Then his distinctive presence was paired with craggy, leading-man-handsome Chet Huntley for NBC News' coverage of the 1956 Democratic and Republican national conventions. It was a perfect fit.

"He and Huntley represented a transition from wartime radio, which had dominated television news for its first few years," said former NBC News president Reuven Frank, who coined their soon-to-be-famous sign-off as the young producer of their weeknight newscast.

"I used to classify newscasters as the Singers and the Shouters, and Brinkley was neither of those," Frank said Thursday. "He was adult, he was stylish, he was skeptical. And the best writer I ever worked with."


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