Longer listens: Ted Koppel and the decline of broadcast news

By Salon Staff
Published October 24, 2005 6:45PM (EDT)

When Ted Koppel anchors "Nightline" on Nov. 22, it will be for the last time in his 42-year career at ABC News. It will also be the last gasp, at least for now, of broadcast news anchormen as we knew them: The major network icons of recent memory -- Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, and Peter Jennings -- no longer read us our evening news (and can you name their replacements offhand?). The nightly news broadcast is no longer the cornerstone of public discourse. The alleged reasons for this -- cable television, the Internet, niche marketing, scandals that have chipped away at the credibility of the mainstream media, a sharply divided body politic and the rise of the news parody -- are all well documented. As this recent segment (6:04, Real Audio) from public radio's Weekend America demonstrates, the fall of the newsman has also been documented in cinema. Nostalgia over the glory days of the newsman, the piece suggests, is already upon us: George Clooney's latest film, "Good Night, and Good Luck," is an ode to the bravery of CBS legend Edward R. Murrow and, as this Salon Q&A with Clooney reveals, also a nod to his own father's work in TV news.

So if the disappearance of the avuncular Koppel has you misty-eyed, you'll enjoy these selections from the Salon audio archive. Click here (3:16, MP3) to listen to Koppel read from "Off Camera: Private Thoughts Made Public," his diary of 1999. In the passage, Koppel reflects on three days in July when the death of JFK Jr., his wife and his sister-in-law dominated the news. And in this interview (8:20, MP3) -- quite apparently not conducted in person -- Koppel talks about his decision to publish the diary, the downside of a fractured media landscape, and the misperception of liberal bias.

Now, with the virtuous newsman properly venerated, you can listen to these tidbits -- also from the Salon archive -- of fake radio news from the Onion. In this excerpt (6:52, MP3) from "The Finest News Reporting (Vol. 1)," silver-throated anchor Doyle Redland reads classic fake news items including "The Amish Give Up" and "Taco Bell Launches the New Morning-After Burrito." And in this selection (4:50, MP3) from "Our Dumb Century," he reports on Rupert Murdoch's plans to launch Fox, "a new television network he projects will employ over 25,000 Wayans brothers by 1995."

-- Ira Boudway

Salon Staff

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