I was on a plane, sitting next to the girlfriend of a Nightline producer

TV Guide #1464

TV Guide #1464 (Photo credit: trainman74)

This intrigued me as I grew up listening to Ted Koppel on Nightline. He grilled people high and low. Politicians are expert at handling tough questions. But I’m sure they did not relish dealing with Ted. Which is how a real journalist should be.

I still remember when Nightline began, as a response to the hostage crisis in Iran. This was a serious show.

Now this lady was clearly smart. And the way she described her boyfriend, he was no fool either. I heard a few stories. Nothing mind-blowing. And I’m not the kind of person who would take something off-the-record and blab about it on a blog. To be clear, she said nothing negative or disparaging about the show.

But it got me to DVR Nightline again, as I had stopped watching the very night Ted Koppel said goodbye. As you’ll soon see, it was partially Ted’s parting words and partially the positive experience of the plane ride that made me give them a chance. Hoping there would be some quality reporting. Read the final words Koppel said on his final broadcast (c/o Wikipedia):

Legendary CBS newsman Walter Cronkite speaks a...

Walter Cronkite speaks at National Air & Space Museum in Washington in 2004. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s this quiz I give to some of our young interns when they first arrive at Nightline. I didn’t do it with the last batch; it’s a little too close to home. “How many of you”, I’ll ask, “can tell me anything about Eric Sevareid?” Blank stares. “How about Howard K. Smith or Frank Reynolds?” Not a twitch of recognition. “Chet Huntley? John Chancellor?” Still nothing. “David Brinkley” sometimes causes a hand or two to be raised, and Walter Cronkite may be glad to learn that a lot of young people still have a vague recollection that he once worked in television news.

What none of these young men and women in their late teens and early twenties appreciates, until I point it out to them, is that they have just heard the names of seven anchormen or commentators who were once so famous that everyone in the country knew their names. Everybody. Trust me, the transition from one anchor to another is not that big a deal. Cronkite begat Rather, Chancellor begat Brokaw, Reynolds begat Jennings. And each of them did a pretty fair job in his own right. You’ve always been very nice to me, so give this new anchor team for Nightline a fair break. If you don’t, I promise you the network will just put another comedy show in this time slot. Then you’ll be sorry. And that’s our report for tonight, I’m Ted Koppel in Washington and from all of us here at ABC News, good night.

Classy. And too gracious to his successors. “YouTube” some Nightline classics, and compare to any night of the current show.

Image representing GasBuddy as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Boy do I feel sad thinking that youngsters don’t know what Nightline used to be. Tonight was a “good” show. First story was about GasBuddy. In Koppel’s day, that would be a second rate story. But for the new Nightline, this is as good as it gets.

The second story was about the new movie “Hunger Games”. The last story was about a reality TV show called “Duck Dynasty”. I skipped the second story and skimmed the third. But what I saw was a long commercial for the show.

LAS VEGAS - NOVEMBER 24:  Television personali...

This picture is largely irrelevant to the story but it was taken in Vegas so just pretend it's a pic of that gun business Nightline covered. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

The previous night had a “hard-news” story about female orgasm. Puff piece on some shtick in Vegas using pretty female vets to get tourists to shoot guns. The 3rd was a puff piece on Ashley Judd, again, pitching a show.

To the so-called Journalists on the show, can’t you try to do one quality piece of work once in a while? I’m sure 60 minutes has the same pressures you do. And lord knows, in the old days of 60 minutes, most of the sponsors would be the subject of a sting rather than appearing on paid commercials. But at least they do some quality stories on a regular basis. Lesley Stahl can be seen kicking ass.

Nightline, on the other hand, has become nothing more than a vapid entertainment show. At least TMZ does some hardcore “investigating” of the gossip they cover.

Unfortunately, we need journalism now more than we did when TK was still on ABC.

Well, Ted Koppel was wrong. It is a big deal that he’s gone. I miss him. And I miss journalism.

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