Koppel speaks on media changing priorities, political atmosphere
BY SARA PLUMMER World Staff Writer
Saturday, September 10, 2011
9/10/11 at 6:30 AM
The packed audience at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center learned Friday that in addition to being an award-winning journalist and respected news anchorman, Ted Koppel writes and sings political parody songs and can do a good Richard Nixon impression.
Koppel kicked off the 77th season of the Tulsa Town Hall lecture series and opened his lecture sharing funny stories from his days as a foreign correspondent, including covering President Nixon's visit to China in 1972 and accompanying Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on overseas trips.
Koppel, who anchored ABC News' "Nightline" for 25 years, turned more serious as he spoke about how the media and news organizations have changed priorities and the political atmosphere of today.
"Back in those days we believed we had a mission," he said. "Our mission was to tell you at the end of the day what we thought you needed to know. We didn't give a lot of thought to what you wanted to know."
The advent of commercial news programs and 24-hour cable news channels has changed that, Koppel said.
"It's an industry where we no longer give you want you need to know but what you want to know - and that can be mindless trash," he said, referring to popular stories about Charlie Sheen and the Casey Anthony trial. "I have never seen the country in worse shape. We in the television and radio news industry are a bad influence on you."
Koppel also addressed the growing power of China and how the law of unintended consequences has affected U.S. foreign affairs.
Although many Americans say they support U.S. service members, people don't have to sacrifice to support them as in previous wars, he said.
"We've never been more removed from the armed forces," he said. "We say nice things about them, but we don't ration, we don't have a draft," and there's no war tax.
Before the lecture, Koppel held a press conference-type question-and-answer session with Tulsa-area high school and college students.
Questions about the nuclear plant in Japan, citizen journalism, the national debt and foreign policy in the Middle East were brought up, as well as more personal questions about Koppel's favorite type of stories to cover, his legacy and what his dreams and ambitions are now.
"Getting to 72 is one of them," he said. "I'm still ambitious, still have things I want to do. I'm not done yet."
Original Print Headline: Journalist speaks about media changing political atmosphere
Sara Plummer 918-581-8465
Ted Koppel speaks Friday at a news conference at the Performing Arts Center shortly before his Tulsa Town Hall speech. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World