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Ted Koppel to Leave 'Nightline'

The end of an era.

ABC's Koppel Leaving 'Nightline'

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...

Comments (4)

If you recall, ABC wanted t... (Below threshold)
Steve L.:

If you recall, ABC wanted to put a bullet into the head of Nightline a few years ago when they tried to lure David Letterman over from CBS. Letterman turned down ABC saying that he felt that Ted Koppel had earned the right to leave on his terms and not ABC's. This give the alphabet network the chance to kill it without any repercussions.

I too enjoyed Koppel on Nig... (Below threshold)

I too enjoyed Koppel on Nightline and agree that it probably won't last much longer without him. When they were considering dumping him earlier, it was to bring Letterman over for some late night comedy. Now that they've got Jimmy Kimmel in that format (almost 2 decades too late), I hope they're not thinking of bumping him up to that timeslot.

I will say that, while I thought Nightline's coverage tended to be less than objective from show to show, they weren't afraid to hit from the right. I think the biggest problem is that Nightline was one of the few refuges from the shouting match that takes place on the cable networks. For an entire half-hour, a single issue is discussed and covered. This is the same reason that I like Charlie Rose, Frontline, CSPAN - even though some of the shows have clear biases in them. Charlie's biased, but not in a malevolent (ie Dan Rather) way. You just don't get as much understanding of a topic/issue from the Hardball's/Oreilly Factor, etc... They become more focused on the back & forth than about the issue at hand.

Clearly he has the world's ... (Below threshold)

Clearly he has the world's largest head in proportion to body size. I will greatly miss marveling at its existence.

It was a McNeil Lehrer clon... (Below threshold)

It was a McNeil Lehrer clone. But now we have the net.






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