By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – ABC News said on Monday it will
replace departing “Nightline” host Ted Koppel with a trio of
anchors including a veteran White House reporter and a British
journalist whose Michael Jackson documentary led to the pop
star’s child molestation trial.
Terry Moran, ABC’s chief White House correspondent since
1999, will join “Primetime” co-host Cynthia McFadden and former
BBC journalist Martin Bashir in the new “Nightline” format
debuting on November 28, the network said.
In another change under incoming executive producer James
Goldston, “Nightline” will cover three or four topics each
night, rather than its traditional devotion to a single subject
on most broadcasts.
The announcement followed months of speculation about the
form and direction “Nightline” will take after Koppel leaves
the show with his executive producer, Tom Bettag.
Koppel, 65, who has hosted “Nightline” since its official
1980 debut in the midst of the 444-day U.S.-Iranian hostage
crisis, will anchor his last segment of the program on November
22 and leave ABC after 42 years with the network.
Goldston, who produced Britain’s most-watched public
affairs show for two years, as well as Bashir’s “Living with
Michael Jackson” documentary, denied suggestions that
“Nightline” will go soft on news in favor of more pop-culture
“‘Nightline’ has a great and proud tradition of doing
serious and important journalism,” he told Reuters. “There will
be presentational differences, but there shouldn’t be very
large content differences.”
“Nightline” spokeswoman Emily Lenzner said the “main set”
for the show would shift to New York, where McFadden and Bashir
are based. Moran will remain in Washington. Goldston said the
anchors will serve as “co-equals” on the program.
Bashir, who joined ABC last year, first gained wide notice
in the United States for the 2003 Jackson documentary in which
the pop star acknowledged sharing his bedroom with visiting
youngsters. That admission led to Jackson’s trial on charges of
child molestation, but he ultimately was acquitted.
Moran anchors the Sunday night broadcast of “ABC World News
Tonight” and has served as the network’s chief White House
correspondent since 1999. McFadden was hired by ABC News in
1994 as a legal affairs correspondent and has co-anchored the
“Primetime” news magazine since last year.
“Nightline,” which helped usher in the nation’s demand for
round-the-clock news, evolved from a series of late-night news
specials devoted to coverage of the takeover of the U.S.
Embassy in Tehran in November 1979.
The specials, titled “The Iran Crisis: America Held
Hostage,” were first anchored by Frank Reynolds, then by
Koppel, who stayed on to become host of “Nightline” when it
debuted as a regular ABC program on March 24, 1980.
The changing of the guard at “Nightline” comes as the show
is enjoying a ratings upswing, due in large part to its
coverage of Hurricane Katrina.
More than three years ago, ABC sparked a furor when it was
revealed that the network had quietly sought to recruit
comedian David Letterman, star of the “CBS Late Show,” to host
a new ABC talk show that would replace “Nightline.”
ABC is a unit of the Walt Disney Co.