Nightline’s New York Future: One POV

By Brian 

Last week I asked, is this anonymous tipster serious?: “I hear Terry Moran, Cynthia McFadden, and Martin Bashir will be the hosts of the new ‘Nightline.'” Now a thoughtful insider says yes, in a detailed note:

 “Your anonymous tipster about Nightline is correct about everything except Bashir’s role, which isn’t yet settled. At the moment, McFadden and Moran do appear to be the front runners, but this has been a moving target for some time. ABC News’s leadership is famously short-attention spanned, susceptible to falling for the “flavors of the month,” and transperantly insecure about its own judgements.

But the important fact is that James Goldston isn’t moving to DC. The key to this puzzle is 47 W. 66th Street — ABC HQ in NY. Terry Moran has already been commuting regularly there from DC every week for years to anchor the Saturday edition of weekend news following Carole Simpson’s ouster. I may be wrong, but I think for a time he even kept his family in NY while still covering the WH in DC. And McFadden — who is a talented oddball — is already based in NY.

NY is the key to this story. After decades of getting dissed by the Nightline clique in DC, particularly from the rather clumsy and self-righteously hardheaded former EP Leroy Sievers, the DC staff will no longer have Ted to protect them from the consequences. David Westin, Paul Mason and the rest are not going to allow another DC clique to form. Every sign is that this show will be based in NY eventually, decimating the somewhat bloated Washington bureau, which will now only have the ratings-challenged weekly This Week to broadcast from the studios in the basement. In some ways this is poetic justice. As a staffer, I saw on numerous occasions Leroy and Tom (Bettag) and Ted essentially telling NY to go fly a kite, even when it was Rick Kaplan (then a seniror VP in charge of Nightline) who was asking for improvements. Ted doesn’t respect Westin, who he views as a phony and a slick lawyer, and that attitude was amplified most dramatically by Sievers. While Ted was the boss, they could get away with it. Now he’s leaving, and they won’t anymore.

It is too bad because for all of its faults, for all of its anachronistic sensibilities, Nightline truly is a fantastic show, and has some very bright folks who toil to bring the audience content they wouldn’t get anywhere else, not even on 60 Miinutes. Call me a digruntled employee, if you want, and maybe I am, but I feel that this wouldn’t have had to happen had Ted and Leroy and, to a degree, Tom, not snubbed NY as frequently as they did. NY may be stupid and phony and not as journalistically “authentic” as Ted and Leroy styled themselves, but NY is still the boss — it is still the connection to the larger Disney empire with its need for better ratings and a better bottom line. You can’t just keep dissing it the way they did. It was, in retrospect, irresponsible for the program’s leadership to have done so, particularly given their endless statements of support of the lowly staff. I don’t know that NY has the answer, but now we won’t have a choice but to find out.”

And THAT’S the future of Nightline. Nice cliffhanger…