NBC’s Koppel Hire Sends ‘Rock’-Solid Message

Broadcast journalism has precious few titans left, and NBC News has snagged one of them by naming Ted Koppel a correspondent to “Rock Center,” the new newsmagazine fronted by Brian Williams.

Notably, Koppel distinguished himself after leaving “Nightline” with a series of classy documentaries for Discovery. But his form of journalism has always struggled to stay commercially viable and faces an especially tall hurdle in today’s TMZ-driven age, where Casey Anthony and Michael Jackson’s doctor tend to squeeze hard news, serious analysis and especially international coverage, Koppel’s specialty, to the sidelines.

Koppel has been outspoken about the way “Nightline” has stooped to conquer, saying, “It’s no secret they have become hugely successful, because they are doing precisely what I didn’t want ‘Nightline’ to do. It’s become a show that’s heavily oriented into entertainment, more than it is in the direction of information and news.”

Indeed, about the only thing more disheartening than watching “Nightline” most evenings is trying to sit through a whole hour of Erin Burnett’s new CNN program.

Mere days before the Sept. 11 attacks, I wrote a piece calling Koppel the true heir to Walter Cronkite, and today — with Dan Rather having left CBS under a cloud, Peter Jennings’ death and Tom Brokaw’s contributing status at NBC — I still hold by that opinion. If he wants to work, he ought to have a home somewhere.

Even if Koppel has a minimal presence on “Rock Center” — which makes its debut on Oct. 31, filling “The Playboy Club’s” timeslot — bringing him in sends a strong message that Williams is initially committed to making this a serious news program.

Until, of course, the ratings sag, at which point, my guess is all bets are off, and cue the sensational murders, missing kids and Kardashians.



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