By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Ted Koppel may anchor ABC’s “This Week”

Ted Koppel

My “Beat the Press” colleague Callie Crossley has the best idea for George Stephanopoulos’ replacement on ABC’s “This Week”: Gwen Ifill, who would have been a far better choice to succeed the late Tim Russert on “Meet the Press” than David Gregory — predictably — has proved to be.

But if an Ifill hire isn’t in the works, we might get the next best thing. The Politico’s Mike Allen reports that ABC is negotiating with legendary “Nightline” anchor Ted Koppel, now in busy semi-retirement, to moderate “This Week” three Sundays a month.

Koppel was one of the finest broadcast journalists of his generation — the successor to Murrow and Cronkite to a far greater extent than any of the folks who have anchored the network evening newscasts in the post-Cronkite era. He’s a tough interviewer and would bring unparalleled gravitas to the job. Ducking a question from Ted Koppel is not the same as ducking a question from Jake Tapper, Terry Moran or anyone else.

I do have one reservation. After Russert’s death in 2008, I thought retired anchor Tom Brokaw was an excellent choice to fill the moderator’s slot on an interim basis. Instead, Brokaw seemed cranky, sour and bored.

The Brokaw lesson is that it would be great to have Koppel back — but only if he’s prepared to bring his “A” game.

Photo (cc) by Tim Brauhn and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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  1. Neil

    Please explain why or how: “Ducking a question from Ted Koppel is not the same as ducking a question from Jake Tapper, Terry Moran or anyone else.”

  2. Al

    Hopefully, A Ted Koppel, if he brings his “A game” to the job would be stronger than the ones you mention, and less likely to let an interviewee duck a question unchallenged.

  3. Dunwich

    I don’t think Gwen Ifill would be a good choice. Given that she couldn’t understand why she wasn’t a good pick for moderator at a Presidential debate, while putting together a publicity tour for her book on Obama (and others) indicates she doesn’t get it. She’s fortunate to be at Washington Week.

    And nothing against older guys but Brokaw and Koppel should stay semi-retired.
    I know a 21st century program has to be part showiz with its past quotes and clips, but why not go back to the origins of the show and bring in a four person rotation–with a real moderator– to ask short, direct questions?

    No matter what individual they select the format is doomed. I rarely watch and starting Sunday morning without Sam, Cokie, George (Will) is a net-plus.

  4. Lou

    I don’t think Gwenn Ifil is qualified to even be mentioned in the same sentence with Russert.

  5. Thomas

    I left NBC after Williams took over (Is this guy a robot?)
    Went to ABC with Charles Gibson (brilliant anchor)
    Now watching CBS with Katie Couric (come on ABC! Diane Sawyer??)

    I can’t believe they chose Sawyer instead of George Stephanopoulos for Nightly News.

    I can’t believe they have Stephanopoulos doing GMA?????

    Stephanopoulos was excellent doing This Week and the only show he should have left it for was the Nightly News…..

    Other than that, I have always liked Koppel. Reminds me of one of his successor’s, Martin Bashir???

    I think things are only going to get worse….

  6. Newshound

    Kopel is not a good choice.

    Stephanopoulos would be a great choice.

  7. Ggood

    Got to agree that Ifill would be over her head in the current iteration of the show. If it were changed rather dramatically, however, she could make a great show. The configuration of these shows now calls for a guest to pontificate on a wide array of topics, and Ifill just isn’t quick enough on her feet to keep ahead of the spin. But if she refocused the show to spend more time on fewer issues, I think she’s quite capable of slowly cutting through the BS and arriving at some truth, which would be an improvement, in my opinion. She might even bring in guests who know more than the talking points and we might learn something.

    Right now, when the interviews wind up on Sunday morning, the question to be answered is who won? Did the moderator manage to drive the guest off message? The question Ifill might answer is what’s really going on with a given issue? But, as I said, that would be a very different show and might not engage the Sunday morning audience. I think most people who watch those shows like to think they know everything already, and they aren’t watching to be informed. It’s more interview as sport.

    As to Koppel, unfortunately he has relied for way too long on sources that are not reliable to inform his thinking. In a he said/she said format about topical issues, he would be effective. But in cases where he had to actually question and challenge people, he’s not up to it any more (if he ever was). If you look at his programs leading up to the Iraq war, you can see that he simply can’t act as an honest information seeker any more.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Ggood: I don’t think the Lehrer-ized Gwen Ifill should be confused with what she would do once freed from those constraints.

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