Ted Koppel Slams Undisciplined Internet Journalism, Longs for 'Good Old Days' of CBS, ABC and NBC

Former Nightline anchor Ted Koppel appeared on Monday's edition of BBC World News America and longed for the "good old days" when the big three networks didn't have to compete with cable. Speaking to host Katty Kay, Koppel also lamented opinion journalism: "And we now feel entitled, not to have the news that we need, but the news that we want."

He chided, "We want to listen to news that comes from those who already sympathize with our particular point of view. We don't want the facts any more." After being asked who was responsible for this, Koppel wistfully proclaimed, "Well, I think it's the producer who is at fault who so desperately needs the consumer, because, in what I like to consider the good old days, when you only had ABC, NBC and CBS, uh, there was competition. But, the competition still permitted us to do what was in the public interest."

Koppel continued, blaming capitalism and competition for this supposed decline in journalistic standards: "These days, all the networks have to fight with the dozens of cable outlets that are out there, the internet that is out there. They're all competing for the all mighty dollar and the way to get there is to head down to the lowest common denominator."

In Koppel's case, the "public interest" usually meant providing liberal spin. Through the years, the MRC has complied quite a few examples of Koppel parroting left-wing talking points. On October 2, 2003, he provided this not very fair and balanced look at Rush Limbaugh:

"When you say he's ‘a good and decent man,' I don't know him that well personally myself, I have no way of judging one way or the other. But I must tell you I often listen to him when I'm driving into work, and what I hear on the radio is frequently – I don't want to say hateful, that's going a little too far – but he says and does things on the radio that are so disparaging of homosexuals, African-Americans, the homeless. As I say, I think it's clearly part of the act, but it's not gentlemanly, it's not kind."

– ABC's Ted Koppel on Nightline Oct. 2, 2003, rejecting talk show host G. Gordon Liddy's description of Limbaugh.

Some of Koppel's "greatest hits" can be found below:

Intimidated by Hillary?

"Let us not for a moment be confused into believing that this is only a conservative Republican thing, this business of some people feeling threatened by smart, assertive, professional women....Women who speak their minds in public are still swimming upstream in this country."

-- Ted Koppel opening Nightline, August 18, 1992.

Like Saying "Rape Is an Enhanced Seduction Technique"

"To call something an ‘enhanced interrogation technique’ doesn’t alter the fact that we thought it was torture when the Japanese used it on American prisoners, we thought it was torture when the North Koreans used it, we thought it was torture when the Soviets used it....You know, it’s almost the moral equivalent of saying that rape is an enhanced seduction technique."

— Ted Koppel in a commentary for the BBC’s World News America, May 11, 2009.

Keep Reagan Off Rushmore

Ted Koppel: "There were some fairly contentious issues and he was a fairly controversial President – we’ve more or less overlooked much of that over the past week. But I suspect as his friends and supporters try to raise to him to the very heights there, and perhaps find a place for him on Mount Rushmore, that some of that controversy and some of the debate will come back."

Peter Jennings: "No doubt about it."

– Exchange during ABC’s live coverage of Reagan funeral events about 7:45pm EDT on June 11, 2004.

Not A Hint of Gore Scandal?

"At the same time, he will have to find a way to disassociate himself from the President’s extremely low personal approval ratings. It shouldn’t be that difficult. Al Gore has been perhaps the most active Vice President in American history, and there’s not a hint of scandal associated with Gore’s personal behavior. So much for logic."

-- ABC Nightline host Ted Koppel, August 16, 2000.  

A partial transcript of Koppel's April 12 comments can be found below:

TED KOPPEL: I think we're living through the — I hope — the final stages of what I like to call the age of entitlement. And in some instances, that's quite clear. We fight two wars without raising a single nickel to support them. We feel entitled to mortgages, whether we have jobs or not. We feel entitled to make ten, 50, $100 million even though the enterprise that we've headed up is a total failure. And we now feel entitled not to have the news that we need but the news that we want. We want to listen to news that comes from those who already sympathize with our particular point of view. We don't want the facts any more.

...

KATTY KAY: Who's at fault, though? The Consumer or the producer of the news?

KOPPEL: Well, I think it's the producer who is at fault who so desperately needs the consumer, because, in what I like to consider the good old days, when you only had ABC, NBC and CBS, uh, there was competition. But, the competition still permitted us to do what was in the public interest. These days, all the networks have to fight with the dozens of cable outlets that are out there, the internet that is out there. They're all competing for the all mighty dollar and the way to get there is to head down to the lowest common denominator.

...

KOPPEL: I mean, you and I have to operate through editors and producers and managers. And, also, we've both been in this business, I, much longer than you, but you've been in for a pretty long time, too. And as a consequence of that, you've learned certain disciplines. Those disciplines may be apply to people on the internet, but there's no way of assuring it.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org