By Brian Williams, Anchor and managing editor
This is a special day for our broadcast, and for all of NBC News. Starting today, Nightly News originates from a brand-new, state of the art studio on the third floor of our headquarters here at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York. We look forward to showing it off to you tonight. But really, it's just the most visible part of what may be the most sweeping reorganization this news division has ever seen. Today for the first time, our colleagues at MSNBC join us at the newly redesigned and renovated NBC News facility at 30 Rock -- where from here on out, we will share not only a work environment, but also talent, resources and ideas -- not to mention space in the office refrigerator. We've all been looking forward to this for a long time -- despite all the logistical challenges, and there have been plenty of those. For some of us, this is also a reunion -- those of us who were part of MSNBC at the beginning, when it first went on the air 11 years ago. We were in Fort Lee, New Jersey then -- sharing space with CNBC while our new digs were built in nearby Secaucus. Over the past decade, there have been a lot of changes, and today's may be the biggest one yet. To all the new arrivals from MSNBC: welcome to your -- OUR -- new home.
By the way, our new studio includes a new set, and it looks great. A tip of the hat here to our director Brett Holey and his team for bringing it all in for a landing. Make no mistake, the content of the broadcast will always be the most important part of what we do, but we think this new set will be a valuable and versatile tool, helping us bring you the best program possible. Sets have always been a part of television news -- sometimes for the better, sometimes not. Today's unveiling got us thinking back to our founding fathers, so to speak -- Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, whose Huntley-Brinkley Report really created the template for network evening news programs. They got their start a half-century ago -- Chet anchoring in New York, and David in Washington. Huntley worked right here at 30 Rock, in fact, and the studio he used was on the 5th floor -- just two floors up from where we are now. To tell you the truth, his earliest studio was really just a former announcers' booth, and it was very small. (Budgets were tight then, too). But they made it look bigger by putting tiny clocks (two inches in diameter) on the back wall, along with a wall map and painted-on ceiling lights in false perspective, tricking the eye and making the clocks look bigger. It was a deliberate optical illusion, to be perfectly honest about it -- intended to make the cramped studio look a little grander and more spacious. Did it work? You can look at the pictures we've posted here and judge for yourself.
One thing has certainly changed since then: it no longer says "American Can Co." on the anchor desk. That's an improvement. Regardless of the studio trappings -- or lack of them -- Huntley and Brinkley delivered a first-class broadcast, of course, and that's been the standard around here ever since. Some things change, and some things don't.
And back to the news we'll be broadcasting from our new facility tonight: the California fires are a huge story. The evacuations in San Diego alone are hard to describe in terms of scope and urgency. Malibu remains a huge concern -- and the weather conditions make it so dangerously unpredictable. Americans who aren't familiar with the West Coast may not understand that these Santa Ana winds reverse, in effect, the normal weather pattern. Instead of the normal West-to-East flow, the wind blows FROM the East out into the Pacific. Those winds originate in the desert, so the air is hot and arid -- and fierce: yesterday, one gust reached 106 mph. New Englanders familiar with Nor'easters know how strange it is when weather patterns reverse -- when the rain hits the side of the house that never gets rain. It's a California phenomenon -- and now it's combining with the driest season on record, to make a truly explosive situation. We're using a great website to track the fires and traffic flow (if you're a California ex-pat or just worried about friends or loved ones) its called sigalert.com. We're all over this story, we'll stay on it around the clock.
One more note: Last week on the broadcast, Jim Miklaszewski told the remarkable story of Navy Lt. Michael Murphy, who was killed in Afghanistan during a truly horrific day of fighting in June, 2005. Murphy's exceptional courage and sacrifice that day earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor - the first to be awarded for combat in Afghanistan. Regular readers of this blog know the Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. Today, in an emotional ceremony at the White House, President Bush presented the Medal to Lt. Murphy's family.
We hope you'll join us tonight for the Monday edition of Nightly News.