Koppel, Ted

views updated


KOPPEL, TED (1940– ), U.S. television journalist. Koppel was born in Lancashire, England, where his parents fled to escape from the Nazis. His father, Erwin Koppel, was the owner of a major tire factory in Germany and immigrated to England in 1936. His mother followed two years later. Koppel spent his first 13 years in England, where he attended boarding school. He and his family moved to the United States and he graduated from Syracuse University with a bachelor's degree and from Stanford University with a master's in mass communications research and political science. Koppel started working in journalism at a New York City radio station and joined the American Broadcasting Company news division as a full-time general assignment correspondent at the age of 23. In a four-decade career at abc, Koppel had a major reporting role in every presidential campaign beginning in 1964. In 1968 he became Miami bureau chief, where his assignments included covering Latin America. From 1969 to 1971, as Hong Kong bureau chief, he covered stories from Vietnam to Australia. He served as abc's chief diplomatic correspondent from 1971 to 1980, a period that included traveling more than a quarter of a million miles for coverage of Secretary of State Henry A. *Kissinger's "shuttle diplomacy." During the time he was on the State Department beat, Koppel co-wrote the bestseller In the National Interest, with his friend and colleague, Marvin *Kalb, then with cbs News.

Koppel came to national prominence with the seizure by Iranians of the American Embassy in Teheran in 1979. Four days after the takeover, abc News aired a program called The Iran Crisis: America Held Hostage. The president of the network decided that the program would continue until the hostage crisis was over, and that it would eventually become a regular late-night newscast. After about five months, The Iran Crisis became Nightline, and Koppel, who had anchored the show several times, became the permanent anchor. From 1980 onward, it was difficult to separate Koppel from the show. It was television's first late-night network news program, and Koppel was also the program's managing editor. On the air, Koppel interviewed key political figures and others who were working to free the hostages, and broadcast biographies of those in custody in Iran. Over the years, Koppel won every major broadcasting award, including 37 Emmy awards, six George Foster Peabody awards, ten duPont-Columbia awards, nine Overseas Press Club awards and others. A member of the Broadcasting Hall of Fame, Koppel in 1994 was named a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Republic of France. He speaks fluent German, Russian, and French. In 2003 Koppel was embedded with the U.S. Army's 3d Infantry Division as it marched toward Baghdad during the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Koppel, a feisty interviewer, made news with occasionally blunt comments delivered off the air. Nightline earned its highest ratings for a broadcast in 1987 featuring the scandalized television evangelist Jim Bakker and his wife Tammy Faye Bakker. In 1988 Koppel went to the Middle East to report on Arab-Israeli problems and held a town meeting attended by hundreds of Israeli and Arab citizens. Koppel is also the author, with Kyle Gibson, of Nightline: History in the Making and the Making of Television (1996). According to one website, he considers his family Torah his most prized possession. His daughter Andrea is a reporter with cnn.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]