Lions in Winter: Koppel on Torture, Rather on Burgers

Ted Koppel will weigh in on May 11 on the U.S. use of torture in a segment on “BBC World News America.” Meanwhile, Dan Rather could be seen last week good-naturedly joining in a “The Daily Show” spoof regarding the ridiculous amount of time that the cable news networks devoted to President Obama ordering a hamburger.

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It’s a rather odd time to be one of broadcast journalism’s lions in winter.

Koppel — for my money, the foremost TV journalist of his generation — is still doing serious work, first at Discovery Channel and now for the BBC, albeit on a much smaller stage. Meanwhile, “Nightline” plods on, delivering respectable ratings but also regularly filling out its half-hour with heavy doses of lifestyle and pop-culture trivia (Paula Abdul!) as well as lighter “signs of the times” to pay the bills.

Rather has plied his trade for Mark Cuban’s HDNet in relative obscurity, staying in the spotlight mostly when there’s some new flurry of activity regarding his lawsuit against his former employer, CBS News. In terms of the old gang Tom Brokaw stands out, enjoying emeritus status at NBC News while having the latitude to write books and produce documentaries for cable.

Given all that’s going on in the world, it’s something of a shame to see TV’s old guard of journalistic royalty not being pressed into service, but it’s not like “Dateline” or “20/20” have much of an appetite for anything much beyond “Why do men cheat?” stories or true crime. That leaves “60 Minutes” as an increasingly lonely island of sobriety in the commercial broadcast space.

It also leaves Koppel tackling one of the day’s biggest stories on a relatively small channel, and Rather cracking wise — under a fake ’70s Afro — about fish tacos.

Courage, Dan. Courage.

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