The end of an era.
NEW YORK (AP) – Ted Koppel, who has anchored ABC News'”Nightline” since its inception a quarter-century ago, said Thursday he will leave the network when his contract expires at the end of the year.
His departure comes at a time of questions about the future of his late-night news program, which has been declining in the ratings and was threatened three years ago when ABC tried to lure David Letterman from CBS.
“Ted and I have discussed a number of options under which he might have remained at ‘Nightline’ or in some other capacity at ABC News, but Ted believes this is the right time for him to leave,” ABC News President David Westin said.
Westin said he was optimistic that “Nightline” would continue with an orderly transition. Ultimately, ABC and parent Walt Disney Corp. executives will decide whether the network sticks with news in that time slot.
“Nightline” began as a series of special reports during the Iranian hostage crisis in November 1979 (originally anchored by Frank Reynolds) and became a regular newscast the following March. It was groundbreaking in its early years for how Koppel conducted live interviews with several subjects – a standard in television now but then a product of new technology.
I personally find this sad if not altogether surprising. For many years Nightline was a ritual. But I guess, like many others in the age of 24/7 news coverage and the internet, I don’t think I’ve watched the show more than 3 times in as many years.
Nightline’s advantage at its inception was that it was the TV version of a newspaper report. Spending a half hour on a single topic gave them the ability to really wrap up the big news story of the day and cover it in depth. Now, in the era of 24 hour news channels, the cables have usually spent 6 or 7 hours talking about the topic by the time Nightline airs. It’s supply and demand really… 30 minutes of coverage just did not have the value it once did.
Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself writing Nightline’s obit but realistically it has been on the ropes for years. Losing Koppel will leave in on life support, and you know what happens if you are on life support too long…