AKA Edward James Koppel
Birthplace: Lancashire, England
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Nightline
Ted Koppel's parents were Jewish Germans who escaped the Nazis by emigrating to England, where Koppel was born. His family came to America when Koppel was 13. Koppel entered journalism as a newscaster at a New York radio station in 1962, and joined ABC News in 1963, the same year he became an American citizen. At 23 when he was hired, he was briefly the network's youngest on-air reporter. Through the 1960s, he earned kudos for his reports from Saigon on the Vietnam war, and his coverage of Richard M. Nixon's re-election campaign. Despite several promotions in the early 1970s, he took a leave of absence in 1976 to care for his children while his wife attended law school. Even during his time off, though Koppel anchored ABC's Saturday night newscast.
During the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, he hosted a nightly after-primetime wrap of related developments. The ratings were high enough that The Iran Crisis: America Held Hostage was not allowed to end when the hostages were released. It was renamed Nightline, and it has been ABC's late night alternative to The Tonight Show and David Letterman ever since. Koppel has won 37 Emmys and seven Peabody Awards, eight DuPont/Columbia Awards, seven Overseas Press Club awards, two Society of Professional Journalism awards, and a George Polk award for TV network reporting. Despite all this praise, Nightline generally has the same familiar talking-head guests as any of the Sunday chat shows, and the program has been criticized for its blandness, predictability, and a perceived subservience to White House positions on controversial matters. Koppel retired in 2005, and Nightline has continued without him.
Over the years, Koppel has made news with occasionally blunt comments delivered off the air. In a 1989 speech at Duke University, Koppel said, "We have reconstructed the Tower of Babel, and it is a television antenna: 1,000 voices producing a daily parody of democracy, in which everyone's opinion is afforded equal weight regardless of substance or merit." In Koppel's assessment, "We now communicate with everyone and say absolutely nothing." He has described his own industry as "the shepherd constantly checking to see which way the sheep are headed; and then racing to overtake the flock so that he can be perceived as its leader. And whatever happens outside or beyond the scrutiny of television simply does not exist." In a commencement address at Stanford in 1986, Koppel described America as "nation of electronic voyeurs, whose capacity for dialogue is a fading memory, occasionally jolted into reflective life by a one-liner."
Nightline earned its highest ratings for a 1987 broadcast featuring scandalized televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.
In 1993, Koppel's son Andrew was involved in an altercation at a Washington DC automatic teller machine. According to media reports and court testimony, the younger Koppel was drunk when he approached Senate office worker Patrick Ahearn and said, "You think you're so cool standing in that suit. You must work on Capitol Hill." A fist fight resulted, and by all accounts the young Koppel was the victor. In court, he received a suspended jail sentence and a one-year probation, and was ordered to pay Ahearn's medical bills.
Father: Edwin Koppel (tire factory manager)
Mother: Alice Koppel (singer)
Wife: Grace Anne Dorney (attorney, VP of Koppel Communications, m. 1963)
Daughter: Andrea Koppel (reporter, CNN)
Son: Andrew (d. 1-Jun-2010)
University: BA Speech, Syracuse University (1960)
University: MA Communications & Political Science, Stanford University (1962)
Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity
Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame 2003
Emmy 37 times
Peabody 6 times
Polk Award 1985
Polk Award 1981
George Orwell Award 1984
Funeral: Katharine Graham (2001)
Funeral: Tim Russert (2008)
Nightline Host (1980-2005)
Author of books:
Off Camera: Private Thoughts Made Public (2000)
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