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Brokaw leaves anchor desk

NEW YORK -- After bringing viewers the news for nearly 23 years, NBC anchor Tom Brokaw signed off last night expressing gratitude for what he got in return.

''Thanks for all that I have learned from you," he said at the end of his final ''Nightly News" broadcast, his voice wavering just a bit. ''That's been my richest reward."

Brokaw reminded his audience how ''we've been through a lot together, through dark days and nights, and seasons of hope and joy. Whatever the story, I had only one objective: to get it right," he said, adding he was ''always mindful that your patience and attention didn't come with a lifetime warranty."

Making good on an exit plan announced in May 2002, Brokaw, 64, is stepping away from daily journalism to pursue his varied other interests, including more time on his Montana ranch. But his NBC association will continue under an agreement to host at least three documentaries a year. Brian Williams, long groomed as Brokaw's successor, takes over ''Nightly News" with tonight's broadcast. He begins at the top of the ratings, where ''Nightly News" has reigned since 1997.

Brokaw's departure has been the object of ceremony the past few days, both from the press at large and on his own network, which last week aired a two-hour retrospective on ''Dateline NBC."

Yesterday morning, he appeared on ''Today," which he once anchored, for a tribute (and a champagne toast) from current hosts Katie Couric and Matt Lauer, who paraphrased a familiar song: ''Nobody does it better and no one ever has."

''Even as we speak," Brokaw joked during the segment, ''people are changing the name plate on my door."

Local stations cheer news ratings

In local television circles, the ''sweeps" season is immediately followed by the spin season. And yesterday, each of the big three network affiliates found something to boast about in the November ratings numbers.

WCVB-TV (Channel 5) comfortably won the early morning newscasts and retained a large lead at 6 p.m. WHDH-TV (Channel 7) captured a very tight three-way race at noon and continued to win the 11 p.m. news wars, though the competition there is heating up. Channel 7 received a 7.8 rating in that slot, while CBS4 (Channel 4) got a 6.9 and Channel 5 was close behind with a 6.8 rating. (In Boston, each rating point is the equivalent of just under 24,000 households.)

Although it came in second in household ratings at 11 o'clock, Channel 4 touted the fact that it finished first at that hour in two key demographic groups -- adults 18 to 49 and 25 to 54. Demographics are ''all that Madison Avenue cares about," said new station general manager Julio Marenghi. ''The network sets its ad rates on demos. It's really about the cash for us."

Despite some softening numbers at 11 p.m., Channel 7 public relations director Ginny Lund said, ''we are very pleased that our numbers continue to be very solid . . . and despite a very weak lead-in from NBC, we continue to be number one at 11." Lund pointed out that Channel 4 -- which benefits from a resurgent CBS prime-time lineup -- had a stronger lead-in to the late news than Channel 7.

Channel 5 program director Elizabeth Cheng cited major ratings increases over last November in the station's early morning newscasts, as well as gains in the late afternoon and 11 o'clock newscasts as cause for celebration. ''When viewers are given a choice, they tune in to us," she said. ''We're heartened and we're thankful."

In Boston's 10 p.m. news wars, WFXT-TV (Channel 25) led with a 3.7 rating followed by WLVI-TV (Channel 56) with a 2.2 and WSBK-TV (Channel 38) with a 1.2 rating.

MARK JURKOWITZ

Globe on NECN

Here's what's happening on ''Around the Globe" today:

12:30 p.m.: ''Globe at Home" -- Food writer Joe Yonan and Joanne Chang, owner of Flour bakery, offer holiday cookie decorating tips.

4 p.m.: ''Around the Globe"

6:30 p.m.: ''New England Business Day"

8 p.m.: ''NewsNight"

Schedule is subject to change.

Talk of the town

9 p.m. WUMB-FM (91.9) -- ''World Cafe." Guests: Medeski, Martin, and Wood focus on keyboards; Joe Sample, musician.

Other radio highlights

8 a.m. WGBH-FM (89.7) -- ''Classics in the Morning." Weber's Euryanthe Overture; Marais's Alcione Suite No. 1.

9 a.m. WCRB-FM (102.5) -- Mozart's Symphony No. 30; Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2.

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