There was enough talk of pie and candy to make a body hungry, but newsman Ted Koppel was pitching more of the alternative: a diet richer in the red meat of hard news.
Increased competition and pressure to turn a profit has resulted in TV news giving more attention to stories like the “Runaway bride” from Georgia than substantive issues, ABC News Nightline anchor Ted Koppel lamented Wednesday at the Promax/BDA conference in New York.
Coincidentally or not, that comment came the night after NBC’s Dateline ran an exclusive interview with the above-mentioned bride that won its 8 p.m. time period.
Referring to the shrinking audience for news, Koppel said, “With the need to make money and a smaller piece of the pie, we have to keep appealing to as large an audience as possible.” He added, “Sadly, the ‘Runaway Bride’ brings in a larger audience than a one-hour documentary on Iraq ever could.”
Koppel, who is exiting Nightline at the end of the year(and thus speaking more freely than many news anchors), urged the audience, largely promotion and marketing professionals, to support hard-news and old-school journalism, making several references to his days as a war correspondent in Vietnam.
Technology, Koppel said, has increased competition in news. During the Vietnam war, he recalled, it would take three days for film to make it from the battlefield to New York for air. Now, Koppel said, it takes three seconds.
“If the length of what we do is reduced and the substance of what we do is reduced. If we focus only on the candy that gets people to flock to the television and we don’t put on the substance because it is unlikely to make money, that is not good for the republic,” Koppel said.