Tuesday, March 05, 2002

Letterman vs Koppel
Why is this getting so much attention? I mean, I'll agree it's an unusual story, but the news channels are treating it like... well, like 9-11 itself. Everyone from Brian Williams to Greta van Susteren devoted a segment to it, Williams' running a good twenty minutes or so (an eternity in cable news), so pronounced were the shockwaves felt throughout the industry.

The best explanation I've come up with is that there is nothing that fascinates newspeople more than... themselves.

I had no idea that Ted Koppel had supplanted Walter Cronkite as America's Best Loved Newsman, but I guess when your competition is distinctly un-lovable Dan Rather, marble-mouthed Tom Brokaw, and "I'm above all this -- I'm really Canadian, you know" Peter Jennings, you take the title by default. He has been running "Nightline" for 22 years, which is prehistoric as TV reckons time. And, all joking aside, he is very good at what he does.

It was pretty cheesy of Letterman to say he'd come to ABC if they were thinking of retiring "Nightline" anyway, hint hint, don't let the door slam you in the butt on the way out, Ted. What about Bill Maher? Who? (Was there ever a more mis-matched hour of television than "Nightline" and "Politically Incorrect"?)

But c'mon, how important is this, really? It's only television. They seem to think that news will be dead with "Nightline" gone, but what about all those 20/20s, 60 Minutes's, and Datelines? And with five 24/7 news networks, is Koppel's competition really Leno and Letterman, or is it Williams, O'Reilly, Aaron Brown, and Ashleigh Banfield?

No matter where Letterman goes, Koppel will work as much as he wants to. He already only works three days a week. Maybe this is a good time to give him a weekly prime-time news hour to play with; see how Katie Couric and Mike Wallace like that.

The only thing you can count on is, no matter what Letterman and Koppel do, they'll do it with buckets of money. Hard to call that losing.

LATER: Well, I'm glad that's over.

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