Brit Hume says that Disney, who owns ABC, must be smarting at being portrayed in the press as “a profit-hungry, greedy corporation uninterested in bringing the news to America.”
Well, Brit (is Droopy your dad, by the way?), if it walks like a profit-hungry, greedy corporation uninterested in bringing the news to America, and if it quacks like a profit-hungry, greedy corporation uninterested in bringing the news to America…well…
It’s nice to some extent to know that the bullshit doesn’t stop when you’re in the highest levels of the profession, that the capitalists will always dick around with the news staff no matter where you are, and that the foolish dynamic doesn’t change at different levels of professionalism in the media. Even at ABC news, it seems, management just isn’t happy until it runs in and goes mad with a thresher.
By its very nature, news is a liability. News staff is not there to help sell advertising. News staff will require a budget and will sop up your resources and will never on its own generate a dime for you. The concept of news as a profit center is a new idea. Television networks initially established news departments because radio had them, and radio had them at the behest of the FCC, which once upon a time as a useful governmental entity held a crazy notion that the public airwaves belonged to the public and had an obligation to serve said public.
“Nightline” was born from that idea in an urgent time. Iran had our people, and Ted Koppel kept us apprised of the progress at 11:30 p.m. every night. There was no CNN and no Internet. There was only Ted.
It was a noble experiment, one that stuck and one that has brought some of the most compelling news stories over the years. Every weekday evening, a serious and respected newsman sits down to tell a story, and a news format developed and perfected in that time slot delivers news with a depth that Stone Phillips and the gang can’t touch.
It doesn’t surprise me that ABC and Disney brass can be so cavalier with Koppel, who deserves a far fairer shake than all of this. Stuffed-shirt capitalist pinheads like this cannot grasp the value of a good news staff and can’t grasp the value of anything that doesn’t have a bottom line. “Nightline” is still doing its job, and people still need “Nightline.” Demographics be darned to heck.