Ted Koppel Makes A Discovery About Broadcast News
PASADENA, Calif., July 12
"March of the Former TV News Titans" continues to play to big crowds at Summer TV Press Tour 2006 here. Episode 2 got a warm reception Wednesday morning; it starred former ABC News Titan Ted Koppel waxing pessimistic about the future of broadcast TV news while hawking the Sept. 11 launch of his newsmag series on the Discovery Channel.
The day before, a rock-'em-sock-'em Episode 1 wowed the Reporters Who Cover Television with a multilayered performance by former CBS News Titan Dan Rather. He simultaneously cracked skulls of CBS News suits, plugged his new "Dan Rather Reports" newsmag for Mark Cuban's HDNet and shed tears while talking about his legacy, being shown the door at CBS after 44 years and being unfit to be in the same room as the late Edward R. Murrow.
As the second episode opened, Koppel, who knows a tough act to follow when he sees one, appeared via satellite from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he's working on a three-hour prime-time special. "Security and Liberty" will kick off his "Koppel on Discovery" series for the cable network.
Going for drama, Koppel told his cameraman to pull back, revealing members of the U.S. military helping the news crew with what appeared to be the poles holding up the tent-thingy under which he was standing in strong winds in front of Camp Delta.
"Even though . . . television critics know an awful lot about this business, sometimes even those of us who are in it have to marvel at how much . . . combined effort it takes to put a live shot like this on the air.
"We literally have members of the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, a couple of satellite technicians from Discovery, our own camera crew and a couple of producers just so that I can stand here in the 15-knot wind with Camp Delta directly behind me and answer whatever questions you may have," Koppel told the reporters, who are swanking it up at the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel.
Hmmmm, isn't the U.S. military part of the story Koppel's covering?
The reporters, still marveling at Rather's performance the afternoon before, wanted to know where Koppel stood on the Rather Situation.
The longtime anchor left CBS News last month after he and management could not agree on his future role there. His last year at the network had been marred by the controversy over an unverified report about President Bush's National Guard service.
"Let me just say as an old friend of his that I feel that CBS News and its parent organization did not act with the greatest heroism in terms of supporting him. Clearly a mistake was made on the broadcast . . . and it took him a while to acknowledge that because Dan is very, very loyal to the people who work with him and for him. Should that have cost him his career at CBS? I don't think so."
But Koppel wanted to make it absolutely clear that his leaving ABC News bears no comparison to Rather leaving CBS News.