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Zelnick salutes Koppel

Bob Zelnick reflects on Ted Koppel‘s career as the Nightline anchor prepares to sign off tonight.

Bob Zelnick, left, and Ted Koppel at BU. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

Veteran broadcast newsman Ted Koppel is expected to relinquish tomorrow the helm of Nightline, the ABC News program he launched 26 years ago. Koppel plans to join producer Tom Bettag in a new reporting venture not yet determined. Recently, COM Journalism Department Chairman Bob Zelnick shared some thoughts about his friend and long-time network colleague, who won a lifetime achievement in journalism award from Boston University in 2004.

"I asked a broadcast journalism student what she thought of Ted Koppel leaving Nightline. Her response: “I don’t watch Nightline very often, but I think Darrell Hammond does a great job impersonating him on Saturday Night Live." Not even Ted Koppel could hold back the dictates of a generation that insists on receiving its education in public affairs through the medium of entertainment.

"Ted Koppel is a friend. He is one of the great newsmen in the annals of televisions. To paraphrase Gene McCarthy’s tribute to Adlai Stevenson, he made us proud to be called journalists.


"With the help of great producers like Bill Lord, Rick Kaplan and Tom Bettag, he took television news to places only he cold take it, probing deeply what others feared to touch, and, in his heyday, bringing the excitement and immediacy of live reporting and intelligent confrontation to viewers in a time slot once thought to be the province of talk show hosts and Hollywood re-runs.


"He tackled big issues. He followed his own instincts. He could be profoundly wrong about some things — his reading the names of the Iraq war dead bordered on the tacky. But he had convictions, great human insights and an aura of classiness and excellence that will be tough to match. I hope he and Tom succeed in their new venture. They are still needed."

— Bob Zelnick