Ted Koppel

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Ted Koppel
Ted Koppel.jpg
Koppel in December 2017
Edward James Martin Koppel[1]

(1940-02-08) February 8, 1940 (age 82)
Nelson, Lancashire, England
EducationSyracuse University (BS)
Stanford University (MA)
Occupation(s)Journalist, news anchor, author
Years active1963–present
Known forNightline (1980–2005)
Grace Anne Dorney
(m. 1962)
Children4; including Andrea
RelativesKenneth M. Pollack

Edward James Martin Koppel (born February 8, 1940) is a British-born American broadcast journalist, best known as the anchor for Nightline, from the program's inception in 1980 until 2005.

Before Nightline, he spent 20 years as a broadcast journalist and news anchor for ABC. After becoming host of Nightline, he was regarded as one of the outstanding serious-minded interviewers on American television. Five years after its 1980 debut, the show had a nightly audience of about 7.5 million viewers.[2]

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 continues as 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 25 Emmy Awards.

Early life and education[edit]

Koppel, an only child, was born in Nelson, England. His parents were German Jews who fled Germany after the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazism.[3] In Germany, Koppel's father 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.[3] The factory moved in 1936, but when war broke out in Europe in 1939, Koppel's father was declared an enemy alien and imprisoned on the Isle of Man for a year and a half.[3]

Koppel was born in 1940, shortly after his father was taken away. To provide for her infant son, his mother sold her personal jewelry and did menial work in London.[3] After he was released from internment, Koppel's father was not permitted to work in England, nor would he allow his wife to work. Following the end of the war, the family earned some money from their confiscated assets and decided to leave for the United States.[3] While in England, Ted Koppel was a pupil at Abbotsholme School, in Derbyshire. In 1953 at the age of 13, the family immigrated to the United States,[3] where his mother, Alice, became a singer and pianist, and his father, Edwin, opened a tire factory.[4] Koppel's boyhood hero was radio broadcaster Edward R. Murrow, whose factual reports during the bombing of London inspired him to become a journalist.[5]

After attending the McBurney School, a private preparatory institution in New York,[6] Koppel attended Syracuse University, graduating 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."[7]

Koppel then went to Stanford University, where he earned a Master of Arts degree in mass-communications research and political science.[8] While at Stanford, he met his future wife, Grace Anne Dorney.[3]


News correspondent[edit]

Koppel as the diplomatic correspondent for ABC News, 1976

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. His coverage of the Kennedy assassination in 1963 with Charles Osgood, caused the national news audience to take notice.[3] 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.[5]

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.[5] In 1966, he became the ABC News correspondent for the Vietnam War, moving from radio broadcasting to national television.[3] 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.[3] Before going he took a course to learn the Vietnamese language.[3]

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.[3] According to Nixon advisor John Ehrlichman, Koppel's friendship with Kissinger was partly due to their similar backgrounds, having Jewish refugee parents and emigrating to America in their youth.[3]

Koppel was among those traveling to China with U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1972. He spoke about it with the USC US-China Institute in their "Assignment: China" documentary series about American media coverage of China.[9] Koppel likened the trip to a "journey to the dark side of the moon". By 1975, he was anchoring the ABC Evening News on Saturdays, and he continued to file reports for ABC Radio.[10]

Koppel would often report on State Department foreign conferences, as when he traveled with Kissinger during his meetings in Egypt and Israel in 1975.[3] 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."[3]

In the mid-1970s, Koppel took a year off from his career, to stay home with his children so that his wife could complete her education at Georgetown Law School. Koppel's decision upset ABC News president Roone Arledge, who demoted Koppel from news anchor when he returned to the network.[7]

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".[5] For the series he received an Alfred I. duPont–Columbia University Award.[5]

Nelson Mandela interview[edit]

In 1990, Koppel interviewed Nelson Mandela in a US-style town hall meeting.[11]

Host of Nightline[edit]

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.[12] In 1990, ABC News ran a one-hour special called "The Best of Nightline with Ted Koppel".[13] Koppel spent twenty-five years anchoring the program, before leaving ABC (and leaving as host of Nightline) in late November 2005.[14]

While hosting Nightline, Koppel also hosted a series of special programs called Viewpoint, beginning in 1981, which provided media criticism and analysis. The show 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.[15] 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.[16] 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".[17]

Controversy regarding Pol Pot video[edit]

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. Thayer claimed ABC purportedly violated that agreement by posting screenshot stills of video from the interview on ABCNews.com, violating the license as the site was accessible throughout the world, though not uploading the actual video.[18]

Departure from Nightline[edit]

Ted Koppel at the 62nd Annual Peabody Awards

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.[19]

Koppel in 2008

Following Nightline Koppel has taken on a number of roles which span various formats of news media:

Discovery Channel[edit]

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".[30] 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.[31]

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.[30]

Honors and awards[edit]

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.[38] He is a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.[39]

Emmy Awards[edit]

  • He has won 42 Emmy Awards, including:[32]
  • 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 [40]

Personal life[edit]

Koppel is married to the former Grace Anne Dorney. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1963.[41] 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.[42]

Koppel speaks German and French, in addition to his native English.[citation needed]

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.[17] 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".[43]

In 1993, Koppel and his wife paid $2.7 million for 16 acres (6.5 ha) overlooking the Potomac River in Potomac, Maryland.[44] 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).[44]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vanity Fair. 1994. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  2. ^ "Meet Mr. Perfect of television news", The Washington Post, April 6, 1985
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o John Ehrlichman. "Why We Stay Up for Ted Koppel." Parade Magazine, September 27, 1987, pp. P18, 20-21.
  4. ^ "Ted Koppel Biography (1940–)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d e Moritz, Charles. editor, Current Biography Yearbook, 1984, The H. W. Wilson Co., N.Y. (1984) pp. 216-220
  6. ^ Dan Nimmo and chevelle Newsome. Political Commentators in the United States in the 20th Century. Greenwood Press, 1997, p. 151.
  7. ^ a b "The Real King of Late Night", The Washington Post, June 12, 1996
  8. ^ "Ted Koppel". ABC News. 17 November 2005. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  9. ^ "Assignment: China - The Week that Changed the World | US-China Institute". China.usc.edu. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  10. ^ "The Ted Koppel Collection". Syracuse University Library, Special Collections.
  11. ^ Nelson Mandela destroys Ted Koppel Part 1
  12. ^ "Ask the Globe". The Boston Globe, April 28, 1988, p. 52.
  13. ^ "The Best of Nightline with Ted Koppel", 1 hour
  14. ^ Mark Jurkowitz. "Koppel to Leave Nightline and ABC News". The Boston Globe, April 1, 2005, p. D5.
  15. ^ Judy Flander. "Ted Koppel to Moderate 'Viewpoint.'" Chicago Tribune, August 12, 1982, Section 4, p. 11.
  16. ^ "Koppel Looks Back on a Decade of Nightline". The Boston Globe, November 8, 1989, p. 80
  17. ^ a b Solomon, Norman. – "Ted Koppel: 'Natural Fit' at NPR News and Longtime Booster of Henry Kissinger". – Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). – January 16, 2006
  18. ^ Kelly Heyboer (September 1997). "A Journalistic Coup Turns Sour". American Journalism Review: 10–11. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  19. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: Jerold Wedge (16 September 2015). "(Tuesdays with) Morrie Schwartz: Lessons on Living, Ted Koppel Nightline Interview" – via YouTube.
  20. ^ "Koppel Takes Posts at The Times and NPR", The New York Times, January 13, 2006
  21. ^ "Ted Koppel to Join NPR as Senior News Analyst", NPR, January 12, 2006
  22. ^ Ted Koppel biography, NPR,
  23. ^ Consoli, John. "Ted Koppel Joins BBC World News America". Adweek.com. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  24. ^ "Ted Koppel returns to anchor's chair on 'BBC World News America'". Latimesblogs.latimes.com. 22 March 2011. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  25. ^ Koppel, Ted (6 August 2013). "America's Chronic Overreaction to Terrorism". Wall Street Journal. WSJ. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  26. ^ "‘Lights Out,’ by Ted Koppel", The New York Times, Nov. 20, 2015
  27. ^ Chris Ariens (13 March 2016). "Ted Koppel Named Special Contributor to CBS Sunday Morning | TVNewser". Adweek.com. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  28. ^ Johnson, Ted (25 March 2020). "Ted Koppel, In a Return To 'Nightline', Warns Of Misinformation During Coronavirus Crisis". Deadline. Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  29. ^ News, A. B. C. "'Jimmy Kimmel Live!' 20th anniversary special to feature George Clooney, Snoop Dogg and more". ABC News. Retrieved 27 January 2023. {{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  30. ^ a b Gough, Paul J. (28 November 2008). "Ted Koppel, Discovery parting ways". Reuters.
  31. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (9 July 2008). "On the Trail of Consumerism in a Booming Chinese City". The New York Times.
  32. ^ a b c d e "Rebuilding the Future", The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 25, 2000
  33. ^ "Ted Koppel gets his own program", The Jackson Sun, (Jackson, TN) July 4, 1975
  34. ^ Ted Koppel biography, Museum of Broadcast Communications
  35. ^ "Board of Trustees at Duke University: 1990s". 9 June 2010. Archived from the original on 9 June 2010.
  36. ^ "Paul White Award". Radio Television Digital News Association. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  37. ^ "Honorary Degrees - Past Recipients". University of Southern California. Archived from the original on 29 November 2008. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  38. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Ted Koppel entertains CitrusTV". YouTube. 11 October 2001. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  39. ^ "Pikes.org - Prominent Pikes". 2 February 2009. Archived from the original on 2 February 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  40. ^ "Ted Koppel : Awards". IMDb.com. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  41. ^ "Columnist Biography: Ted Koppel". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 December 2022.
  42. ^ "Ted Koppel's son, 40, found dead in NYC apartment". USA Today. 1 June 2010. Archived from the original on 31 October 2010.
  43. ^ Columbia Journalism Review, March/April 1989.
  44. ^ a b Mosk, Matthew. - "Koppel Tries to Cut Neighbors Down to Size". - Washington Post. - December 26, 2002. - Retrieved: 2008-07-10

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Frank Reynolds
Nightline anchor
March 24, 1980 – November 22, 2005
Succeeded by
Terry Moran, Cynthia McFadden, and Martin Bashir