When Ted Koppel left the late-night news program in 2005, it was written off for dead. A news show, without the star power of its lead anchor, had no hope of competing against Leno and Letterman, or so went the conventional wisdom at the time.
But according to a story in the New York Times, the program is not only holding its own, it sometimes comes out on top.
Granted, a lot of those ratings can be attributed to coverage of the death of a certain pop singer, but the executive producer also notes that the program beat the talk shows with a show about Afghanistan and an interview with President Obama.
“Nightline” is not exactly Charlie Rose. It’s not even “60 Minutes.” But amid such topics as “Does Satan exist? Debating the Devil” and “Hookers for Jesus preach to unlikely flock” you’ll find segments on consumer protection, endangered species and the Iranian election.
A common refrain is that with all the Internets and the Tweeters and whutnot, we’ve become so preoccupied with pop culture that we’re no longer in touch with important issues (as opposed to a generation ago, when people ignored such temptations as “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “Laugh-In” and instead gathered the family around the woodstove to recite the speeches of Abraham Lincoln). So on one hand, the fact that people are switching off Letterman and turning to the news instead is a Good Thing. But one could also argue that TV “magazine” shows give short shrift to serious issues in favor of slick, candy-coated segments designed to draw an audience, and that we end up less informed as a result.
But in the end, can the fact that one of the major networks still sees journalism as one of its top contenders be anything but positive?