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ABC Announces Replacements For Koppel, ‘Nightline’ Anchor

By Bill Carter
THE NEW YORK TIMES


NEW YORK

ABC announced a new lineup of three anchors to succeed Ted Koppel on “Nightline” on Monday, in what the network hopes will lead to renewed success for the longtime award-winning news program.

Terry Moran, who is ABC’s chief White House correspondent, the veteran ABC reporter Cynthia McFadden, and a newcomer from British television, Martin Bashir, will make up the threesome that, starting Nov. 28, will replace Koppel, who has headed the program since its inception a quarter of a century ago.

The president of ABC News, David Westin, made the announcement, a crucial one for the news division, saying the move was made to build on the “great legacy” of “Nightline,” even as it ushers in what he called “a new era” for the program.

James Goldston, a former producer for BBC News and ITV News in Britain, who was named in July to be the executive producer of the revamped “Nightline,” emphasized Monday that though he intended to change the format, “it will still be a show in the great tradition of ‘Nightline.”’

That tradition has led to consistent critical praise as well as a multitude of journalism awards for the program and for Koppel.

But in recent years “Nightline” has struggled in the ratings, generally falling behind its entertainment rivals at NBC and CBS, “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and “Late Show With David Letterman” (although “Nightline” bounced back when the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina dominated the news). And it has struggled more seriously within ABC’s management, which has considered alternatives that might prove more profitable.

Most famously, in 2002, ABC’s corporate management at the Walt Disney Co. tried to woo Letterman away from CBS, a move that would have ended “Nightline’s” run as ABC’s late-night entry at 11:35 each weeknight.

In the wake of that failed attempt, ABC and Disney recommitted to Koppel and “Nightline” but left open the possibility that a shift might be made to an entertainment show when he departed the program. When Koppel announced in April that he would be leaving after November, Anne Sweeney, the president of Disney-ABC Television, made a firm commitment to give the news division the first opportunity to replace Koppel’s “Nightline” with another news program.

Sweeney declined at the time to say how long that news program would have to prove itself a success. Nor was it assured that the news program would still be called “Nightline” or have a similar format, covering the main news stories of the day.

But ABC News, after experimenting with a range of different formats, some of which included elements as far afield as a setting intended to look like a smoky nightclub, has chosen to stay with a concentration on what Goldston called “serious news and context.”

The three new “Nightline” anchors come from established news backgrounds. Moran is considered a top ABC reporter, and he will continue to work out of ABC’s Washington bureau.