Ted Koppel On What Really Happened With Meet The Press

By Alissa Krinsky 

Alissa Krinsky
TVNewser Contributor

So what’s in the tea leaves for Ted Koppel?

A little more than a week after it was announced that he and Discovery Communications are ending their partnership, Koppel talks with TVNewser about his Discovery experience, his future, whether he was ever really considered for the Meet the Press moderator’s job, and the 2008 Presidential election.

TVNewser: So, to set the record straight: was there ever any overture from NBC News to you about moderating Meet the Press?

Koppel: None in either direction. Not from them to me, not from me to them.

TVNewser: Would you have liked to have been named host of MTP?

Koppel: No. To be absolutely honest, my pride would have enjoyed a phone call that I could have turned down [laughs]! It would have been nice for them to say, “God, Ted, we can’t get along without you.” But clearly they can!

TVNewser: What about David Gregory as moderator of the program?

Koppel: I think that makes all the sense in the world.

TVNewser: You’re going to keep busy for now as an analyst for both NPR and BBC World News America. What else would you like to do in the future — is there a ‘dream gig’?

Koppel: I don’t know what the dream gig is. I know what I’m good at. I’m good at interviewing, I’m good at doing sort of longer-form [news]…I think I have a capacity to take complex issues and make them more understandable.

So I don’t know what form that’s gonna take. I don’t know where those opportunities will crop up, but I’m confident that they will.

If anything, I’m not trying to encourage any offers right now. Quite the contrary: I want to be able to spend the few couple of months with my wife, not doing any of that.

TVNewser: So there’s nothing on the table right now?

Koppel: There’s nothing actively on the table, and if there were, you know I’d love to share it with you!

TVNewser: You told TVNewser in June that some of the strongest work you’ve ever done was related to reporting on race relations, including your Nightline series ‘America in Black and White.’ So how has it been for you, then, to witness the election of America’s first African-American President?

Koppel: I think it’s great. I think it’s just amazing. That’s not a political comment, it really isn’t.

It’s not going to mean the end of racism. Quite the contrary, I think. Racists will be, if anything, even more agitated that they have a black President that has appointed black men and women to very prominent positions…

But I think it’s absolutely a wonderful thing. I rejoice in it…I couldn’t be more happy for the country. And for all of us.

TVNewser: How would you describe the time you spent at Discovery — what did you learn, and how was it different from your years at ABC News?

Koppel: Doing the long-form work — Nightline was almost always half an hour and sometimes would run to an hour, and there were occasions when we did programs that ran even longer than that — we were not unfamiliar with long-form.

What we were unfamiliar with &mdash at least what I was unfamiliar with — was long-form that takes a long time to put together.

I’ve been a hard news journalist all my life. And that means that your brain grows accustomed to working on deadline…you always make air. There is no such thing as being a minute late. When you’re doing long-form…you can write, and re-write, and re-write, and re-write again…and then cut it again, and re-cut it…it requires a different kind of discipline.

I must say I appreciate what can come out of it…some of [our work] was very, very good. I think the China programs were among the best work that Tom Bettag and our friends whom we brought over from Nightline and I have ever done together. But it’s a different discipline.

TVNewser: Do you ever want to retire, or do you see yourself always wanting to work?

Koppel: No to the first, and yes to the second.