Ted Koppel in December 2017
Edward James Martin Koppel
February 8, 1940
|Education||Syracuse University (BS)|
Stanford University (MA)
|Occupation||Journalist, news anchor, author|
|Known for||Nightline (1980–2005)|
|Spouse(s)||Grace Anne Dorney (1962-present)|
Before Nightline, he spent twenty years as a broadcast journalist and news anchor for ABC. After becoming host of Nightline, he was regarded as one of the most "outstanding" of the serious-minded interviewers on American television. Five years after its 1980 debut the show had a nightly audience of some seven and a half million viewers.
After leaving Nightline, Koppel worked as managing editor for the Discovery Channel, a news analyst for NPR and BBC World News America and a contributor to Rock Center with Brian Williams. Koppel is currently a special contributor to CBS News Sunday Morning. His career as foreign and diplomatic correspondent earned him numerous awards, including nine Overseas Press Club awards and twenty-five Emmy Awards.
Early life and education
Koppel, an only child, was born in Nelson, England. His parents, German Jews, had fled Germany after the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazism. In Germany, Koppel's father had operated a tire-manufacturing company. To help the British economy, the Home Secretary invited him and his wife to move the factory to Lancashire, England, where, he was promised, they would be protected in the event of war. They moved the factory there in 1936; but, when war broke out in Europe, in 1939, he was instead declared an enemy alien and imprisoned on the Isle of Man for a year and a half.
Koppel was born in 1940, shortly after his father was taken away. For income, his mother sold her personal jewelry and did menial work in London to provide for her infant son. When his father was released, he still was not permitted to work in England, nor would he allow his wife to work. In the years after the war ended, they gained some money from their confiscated assets and decided to leave for the United States. While in England, Ted Koppel was a pupil at Abbotsholme School, in Derbyshire. In 1953, when he was 13, the family emigrated to the United States, where his mother, Alice, became a singer and pianist, and his father, Edwin, opened a tire factory. Koppel says "they came here because they believed the opportunities for me would be better in America." Koppel's boyhood hero was radio broadcaster Edward R. Murrow, whose factual reports during the bombings of London inspired him to want to become a journalist.
After attending the McBurney School, a private preparatory institution in New York, Koppel attended Syracuse University, from which he graduated at age 20 with a Bachelor of Science degree. He was a member of the Alpha Chi chapter of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. His roommate recalls that Koppel "was incredibly focused and had a photographic memory. He remembers almost every conversation he ever had with anybody. And the man never needs sleep."
Koppel then went to Stanford University, where he earned a Master of Arts degree in mass-communications research and political science. While at Stanford, he met his future wife, Grace Anne Dorney.
Koppel had a brief stint as a teacher before being hired as a copyboy at The New York Times and as a writer at WMCA Radio in New York. In June 1963, he became the youngest correspondent ever hired by ABC Radio News, working on the daily Flair Reports program. As a result of his covering the Kennedy assassination in 1963 with Charles Osgood, the national news audience took notice of him. He was scheduled to do a short report, but a delay during the crisis forced him to ad-lib for an hour and a half.
In 1964, he covered his first of many presidential nominating conventions. He also began covering the civil rights movement in Selma, Alabama. ABC officials were impressed by Koppel's ability to clarify issues using plain language. Starting in 1966, he was made the ABC News correspondent during the Vietnam War, and it was during that period he changed from broadcasting over radio to doing so on national television. He accepted the assignment only after the network agreed to send his wife and their two children to Hong Kong so they could be nearby. Before going he took a course to learn the Vietnamese language.
He returned in 1968 to cover the campaign of Richard Nixon, before becoming Hong Kong bureau chief, and U.S. State Department correspondent where Koppel formed a friendship with Henry Kissinger. According to Nixon assistant John Ehrlichman, Koppel's friendship with Kissinger was partly due to their similar backgrounds, as they both had Jewish parents who were refugees from Hitler, and both emigrated to America in their youth.
Koppel was among those traveling to China with U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1972. He spoke about this with the USC U.S.-China Institute for their Assignment: China documentary series on American media coverage of China. Koppel likened the trip to a "journey to the dark side of the moon." By 1975, he was anchoring ABC Evening News on Saturdays, and he continued to file reports for ABC Radio.
Koppel would often report on the State Department's foreign conferences, as when he traveled with Kissinger during his meetings in Egypt and Israel in 1975. He said about Kissinger: "I have a high regard for Henry. He has a first-class mind. A half hour with him gives me a better insight into a foreign policy question than hours with others."
In the mid-1970s, Koppel took a year off from his news anchor position to stay home with his children so that his wife could complete her education at Georgetown Law School. That decision by Koppel upset ABC News president Roone Arledge, who then dropped Koppel as news anchor when he returned to the network.
In April 1979, he was lead reporter for an eleven-segment series, "Second to None?", which focused on explaining the dangers of nuclear war. He did his own research and wanted to present "complex material to an audience that hasn't paid much attention in the past but must in the future ... if there is to be a future." For the series he received an Alfred I. duPont–Columbia University Award.
Nelson Mandela interview
Host of Nightline
Koppel became known for his work as the host of a late night news program called Nightline. The program originated as a series of special reports about the 444-day-long Iran hostage crisis, during which Iranian militants held 52 Americans captive, beginning in early November 1979. At first, the program was called The Iran Crisis: America Held Hostage, and was hosted by Frank Reynolds. Koppel eventually joined Reynolds as co-anchor. In March 1980, the program evolved into Nightline, with Koppel as its host. In 1990, ABC News ran a one-hour special called "The Best of Nightline with Ted Koppel." Koppel spent twenty-five years anchoring the program, before leaving ABC (and leaving as host of Nightline) in late November 2005.
While hosting Nightline, Koppel also hosted a series of special programs called Viewpoint, beginning in 1981, which provided media criticism and analysis. It was envisioned by ABC News Vice President George Watson as a way to address any media bias that viewers might believe that they encountered on the network. Broadcast before a live audience, it provided viewers with a chance to question how stories were reported or critique television news. Viewpoint was broadcast sporadically, from 1981 until 1997.
Some liberal groups suggested that Koppel was a conduit for the government's point of view and accused him of favoring conservatives when selecting guests. In the late 1980s, the progressive media criticism organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) claimed that policymakers and ex-officials dominated the Nightline guest list, with critics of foreign policy less visible. In 1987, Newsweek called him the "quintessential establishment journalist". Koppel responded that "We are governed by the president and his cabinet and their people. And they are the ones who are responsible for our foreign policy, and they are the ones I want to talk to".
Controversy regarding Pol Pot Video
In 1997, Nate Thayer, a journalist writing for the Far Eastern Economic Review who later interviewed Pol Pot shortly before Pol Pot's death, claimed that Koppel and ABC News made a verbal agreement with Thayer for the exclusive North American rights to use video from a show trial of Pol Pot that Thayer and Asiaworks Television videographer David McKaige witnessed on Nightline, and that ABC purportedly violated that agreement by posting still photo captures from the video on its news website, effectively allowing them to be viewed anywhere in the world.
Departure from Nightline
On November 22, 2005, Koppel stepped down from Nightline after 25 years with the program and left ABC after 42 years with the network. His final Nightline broadcast did not feature clips highlighting memorable interviews and famous moments from his tenure as host, as is typical when an anchor retires. Instead, the show replayed an episode of Nightline with Koppel's 1995 interviews with retired Brandeis University sociology professor Morrie Schwartz, who was dying of Lou Gehrig's disease.
Following Nightline Koppel has taken on a number of roles which span various formats of news media:
- He signed up as an opposite editorial-contributing columnist, effective January 29, 2006, for The New York Times,
- Starting in June 2006, he provided commentary to Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Day to Day on National Public Radio, joining NPR's other two Senior News Analysts, Cokie Roberts and Daniel Schorr. As such, he participated in the annual NPR Fourth of July reading of the Declaration of Independence in 2007. Koppel ended his regular commentary on NPR in April 2008, and last appeared as a news analyst on the network in 2014.
- Koppel made occasional guest appearances on The Daily Show appearing in extreme close-up as a disembodied head, acting as Jon Stewart's journalistic conscience, sometimes as the replacement for the so-called "Giant Head of Brian Williams" projected on the screen behind Stewart. Koppel has jokingly insisted that "this is the actual size of [Koppel's] head"
- Koppel worked for BBC World News America as a "contributing analyst" covering the 2008 Republican National Convention and the 2008 Democratic National Convention and hosted a special edition of the program in 2011.
- On December 12, 2011, Koppel made his first appearance on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams as a reporter. He would later become a special correspondent for NBC's Rock Center until the show's cancellation.
- On August 6, 2013, The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece by Koppel entitled "America's Chronic Overreaction to Terrorism".
- In 2015 Koppel published the book, Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath, about the potential of a major cyberattack on America's power grid.
- Since March 2016 Koppel has served as a special contributor to CBS Sunday Morning.
- On March 24, 2020, Koppel made a guest appearance on Nightline to mark the program's 40th anniversary, discussing how he and his wife had been coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following his departure from Nightline Koppel formed a three-year partnership with Discovery Communications as managing editor of the Discovery Channel. While at Discovery, Koppel produced several lengthy documentaries on a variety of subjects including a 2008 four-hour miniseries on China, which Koppel "ranks with some of the work that [he is] most proud of over the years." The four-part documentary, called The People's Republic of Capitalism, is an extensive look at the fast-changing country. It takes a look at the role of Chinese consumers in the growing yet communist economy.
Koppel and Discovery Communications parted ways in November, 2008, terminating their contract six months early, prompting rumors that Koppel would be hired for NBC's Meet the Press. Koppel stated that he was not interested in the job.
Honors and awards
- Eight Alfred I. duPont–Columbia University Awards for broadcast journalism;
- Nine Overseas Press Club Awards for best television commentary on foreign news;
- Two George Polk Awards
- Two Sigma Delta Chi Awards
- Three George Foster Peabody Awards
- 1987: honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Duke University.
- 2004: Paul White Award, Radio Television Digital News Association
- 2006: honorary Doctor of Laws degree, University of Southern California
Koppel returns to Syracuse University regularly as a guest speaker. He was a member of the student-run WAER and keeps in touch with the student media at Syracuse. He is a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.
- He has won 25 Emmy Awards, including:
- 1987 - Outstanding Coverage of a Breaking News Story - Programs (Nightline)
- 1999 - Outstanding Investigative Journalism - Programs (Nightline)
- 1999 - Outstanding Coverage of a Breaking News Story - Programs (Nightline)
- 2004 - Outstanding Feature Story in a News Magazine (Nightline)
- 2007 - Lifetime Achievement Award 
They have four children: Andrea (a former journalist), Deirdre, Andrew, and Tara. Andrew Koppel was found dead in an apartment in New York City on May 31, 2010, reportedly after a day-long drinking binge; a post mortem toxicology report identified illicit drugs.
Koppel speaks German and French, in addition to his native English.
He is a longtime friend of Henry Kissinger. Both of them moved to the United States as children. Along with former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, Kissinger was the most frequent guest on Nightline. In an interview, Koppel commented, "Henry Kissinger is, plain and simply, the best secretary of state we have had in 20, maybe 30 years – certainly one of the two or three great secretaries of state of our century," and added, "I’m proud to be a friend of Henry Kissinger. He is an extraordinary man. This country has lost a lot by not having him in a position of influence and authority".
In 1993, Koppel and his wife paid $2.7 million for 16 acres overlooking the Potomac River in Potomac, Maryland. They sued to hold their neighbors to an agreement to limit the size of the houses in the neighborhood to 10,000 sq ft (930 m2).
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- Columbia Journalism Review, March/April 1989.
- Mosk, Matthew. - "Koppel Tries to Cut Neighbors Down to Size". - Washington Post. - December 26, 2002. - Retrieved: 2008-07-10
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ted Koppel.|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Ted Koppel|
- Biography from ABC
- Ted Koppel to Join 'NY Times' Editorial Page, Contribute to NPR, a January 2006 article from Editor & Publisher
- Global National anchor Kevin Newman recalls Ted Koppel on his blog
- ABC News' "Time Tunnel" page containing clips of numerous newscasts (including Nightline) on which Koppel appeared
- Memory and Imagination: New Pathways to the Library of Congress Documentary
- Ted Koppel at The Interviews: An Oral History of Television
- Appearances on C-SPAN
| Nightline anchor
March 24, 1980 – November 22, 2005
Terry Moran, Cynthia McFadden, and Martin Bashir