Nightline's new slogan will be "Nowhere Else," as in stories you will see nowhere else. That's according to James Goldston, executive producer of the newly morphing ABC News show.
Goldston said that the show would have to do more of a "song and dance" to get noticed, but said that was not a comment on the journalism, but instead on the need to better package and promote the top-flight stuff it was already doing.
He said the show "lives or dies" by the quality of that content, and that he would be true to its roots while not being afraid to try something new.
Asking critics not to pre-judge the multi-anchor show with a heightened New York presence--which doesn't debut until Nov. 28--he promised that what viewers would still see is the kind of serious, "intelligent, cultured," journalism that helped Nightline build such a strong reputation."
"I want the show to be judged on what we do, not on some theoretical version of what we might do," he said.
While Nightline's journalistic standards have maintained a high level, its viewership has slid significantly, he pointed out, and made no bones about his charter to boost that viewership. But he also said Letterman's numbers were softening considerably and he saw an opportunity to pick up new viewers by changing the presentation of what is already the best journalism in the business, he said.
That change will include more series. For instance, he said, the first two weeks will feature a week-long series by Washington anchor Terry Moran, reporting from Baghdad on the war. The second week will feature another war-related series about the home front.
He said the show will be hosted live every night, and guests will be increasingly encouraged to appear live, as was the case in the show's early days.
There will be a short closing segment after the last commercial break that takes a wry look at a less serious story. Asked if that were a response to the Jon Stewart competition, he said no, more a chance "to squeeze every last drop out of a broadcast and to a little bit playful in some of what we do." He suggested such a story might look at President Bush's inability to get out a door during a trip to Asia.
While Times Square will figure prominently as the home to co-anchors Martin Bashir and Goldston said that Washington would continue to be the show's base of operations. He said the production team had stayed pretty much intact, pointing out the show has six edit suites in Washington and only two in New York.
He said the Nightline staff head count had actually gone up by eight members.
He promised to talk with reporters again after the show debuted, but not until after a couple of week's worth, saying he didn't want to be judged by one or two shows. In that he had company in Ted Koppel, who told the story at his farewell party last week in Washington--Goldston was there, too--of the scathing review the show got after the first night, which became a rave after a few months.