April 30, 2004


The US news program Nightline will broadcast this Friday the names and faces of every soldier killed by enemy fire since the war began, reports the New York Times:

Ted Koppel, the program's anchor, will deliver a brief introduction before reading the more than 530 names, as photographs and captions with the ages and hometowns of the dead appear on the screen. "Nightline" will not include those who died by accident and other causes because of time constraints; Mr. Koppel will barely have two seconds for each name.

Interesting that Nightline’s principled and non-political decision -- Koppel claims it is a “tribute” to the dead -- doesn’t extend to adding 30 minutes of airtime so all the names could be included. Jeff Jarvis nails the list manoeuvre as a journalistic cliche:

How many times have we seen such roll calls of death called out: war deaths; drug deaths; AIDS deaths; 9/11 deaths. It has been used so often that to pull it out now is a very conscious effort, a journalistic conceit with a clear purpose and a history that cannot be ignored. It means: Let's hit the people over the head with what we think they're ignoring; let's add it up for them; let's rub their noses in the enormity of it; let's remind them of a story nearly ignored.

But the Iraq war is hardly ignored. We don't need Koppel to bring our attention to the danger and death there.

It’s also lazy. Nightline is presenting nothing but a video version of the Washington Post’s excellent faces of the fallen series. And check this Koppel quote:

"I have always felt, and I said it when I was in Iraq last year, that the most important thing a journalist can do is remind people of the cost of war."

Hint to Koppel: people already know this. More important than reminding us about things we’re entirely clear on (“Next week on Nightline: humans just can’t get enough of that sweet, sweet oxygen!”) is telling us what we don’t know -- for example, we’d have been interested in all the details of Saddam’s Iraq that CNN withheld. When Scott Ritter said he wasn’t going to describe what he saw in Iraq’s kiddie prisons “because what I saw was so horrible that it can be used by those who would want to promote war with Iraq, and right now I'm waging peace”, well, we would’ve appreciated some deeper inquiries. And this whole UNSCAM deal? Tell us more.

*The headline is based on Koppel's reported $6 million annual salary, and assumes he presents 200 programs per year. Another way to look at things: Koppel is pulling down $56 for every dead soldier he names.


Initially, "Nightline" was going to air the names of the 500 Americans who died in combat, but Thursday the program announced plan to expand the Friday broadcast so it could include the 200 Americans who died in non-combat situations.

Posted by Tim Blair at April 30, 2004 02:43 AM

"Koppel is pulling down $56 for every dead soldier he names."


Posted by: madne0 at April 30, 2004 at 02:55 AM

I'll reserve judgement until after I see the program, and especially Koppel's introduction. This might just be a way of honoring and remembering those who've died in defense of freedom--certainly a legitimate mandate of the much maligned fourth estate. Of course, it could also be a condescending anti-war screed. We'll just have to wait and see. I don't really think it's fair to pre-judge this sort of thing.

Posted by: Nathan at April 30, 2004 at 02:55 AM

Pre-judgement maybe, but it's no coincidence that they are broadcasting this on day 2 of the May sweeps. Koppel himself has said that this kind of thing may be better to do on Memorial Day. However, as others have pointed out (Instapundit has a good roundup), that would be after sweeps.

And they wonder why no one watches network news in the states anymore. I haven't for years.

Posted by: wizayne at April 30, 2004 at 03:04 AM

They are completely insane if they think anyone is going to watch this. It will tank Nightline's sweeps numbers, guaranteed. I mean, my god, who wants to sit through an hour of names being read off?

Oh, and anyone who thinks this is a legitimate tribute to the dead is an idiot. If Nightline wanted to honor our dead, they could run stories on how much our boys have accomplished with their sacrifices, or run this stunt on Memorial Day, or any one of a hundred other stories. This is a stunt with an anti-Bush agenda, nothing more.

Posted by: R C Dean at April 30, 2004 at 03:10 AM

"I have always felt, and I said it when I was in Iraq last year, that the most important thing a journalist can do is remind people of the cost of war."

This quote is extremely revealing. War, like anything else, needs to be subject to a cost/benefit analysis. If some tv talking head ever said that the most important thing a journalist can do is remind people of the benefits of war, people would go completely batshit. Koppel's statement looks just as bad to me.

Posted by: Kurt at April 30, 2004 at 03:14 AM

will he do a show reading off the names of all the people saddam killed?

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at April 30, 2004 at 03:16 AM

Ahh, the politics of embarrassment masquerading as compassion. Where have we seen that before ?

Posted by: jafa at April 30, 2004 at 03:17 AM

So what if Koppel makes a lot of money, or the show is aired during sweeps? How in the world does that have anything at all to do with the legitimacy or appropriateness of the program? This is exactly the sort of non-sequiter the hard left brings up whenever they're cornered. Can't explain why this program is bad? Just mutter something under your breath about dirty sinful money motives. They're trying to make money. The irreversible brand of ultimate evil!

Glenn is right to criticize Nightline for pretending not to be aware of sweeps, and I don't trust them any further than I can throw Rosie O'Donnell either. But it's unjust to attack the show before we see it, and it's a mistake to regard money as a reliable sign of mischief.

Posted by: Nathan at April 30, 2004 at 03:22 AM

Kurt, you've nailed the important thing here -- that astounding quote. Not only does it define bad journalism -- a predetermined fixation on one part of a story -- it's a particularly vapid form of lazy pacifism. I almost never watch Nightline or network "news", but I did by chance catch Koppel during a particularly egregious performance a few months back, when he was grilling a CIA official on the Iraq estimate. Koppel just couldn't stop pressing the silliest points, that the guest had batted down instantly the first time they were raised. Koppel showed the essence of elite Washington journalism: ignorance of the subject and an arrogant attachment to a (usually flawed) story line.

Posted by: IceCold at April 30, 2004 at 04:10 AM

With apologies to Truman Capote: "That's not reporting; it's reciting."

Posted by: Robert Crawford at April 30, 2004 at 04:19 AM

Yes, that quote is ridiculously foolish. It's the kind of thing that creates a good impression if you don't think about it, though. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't think.

Posted by: Nathan at April 30, 2004 at 04:41 AM

Nathan's right to with hold some judgement for after it's presented, but their motives are disingenuous. It's meant draw and audience, it highlights the hostilities and not the sacrifice of our soldiers, and the publicity will attract an audience simply to scrutinize the broadcast.

Posted by: aaron at April 30, 2004 at 04:42 AM

What they should to is tell everyone where to find the list so they can read each name to themselves.

Posted by: aaron at April 30, 2004 at 04:50 AM

"I have always felt, and I said it when I was in Iraq last year, that the most important thing a journalist can do is remind people of the cost of war."

And if, in the process, he also manages to remind them of the worthlessness of many journalists, everybody wins!

Posted by: PW at April 30, 2004 at 05:39 AM

Funny thing is, Koppel never read off the names of the 3,000 people murdered at the World Trade Center. And notice they will only read off the names of those killed in Iraq -- but not in Afghanistan.

This a total piece of partisan bullshit dreamed up and executed by one of the wings of the propaganda arm of the Democratic Party. And anyone who thinks differently is, IMHO, a fucking idiot.

Posted by: David Crawford at April 30, 2004 at 05:41 AM

Next week they need to do a piece at the cost of driving on a highway. In the US that's 44,000 per year. Worldwide it's over a million per year. He may want to take a speed speaking course for that.

Posted by: Dash at April 30, 2004 at 06:19 AM

For $56 a pop, I'll not only read off their names, I'll bust some calligraphy action, on archival, acid-free paper.

I can totally provide better naming service than that bastard Koppel.

Plus, I'll happily do the names of the 9/11 victims and the dead in Afghanistan. Heck, I'll do it for $20 a name.

Any takers?


Aww, man...

Posted by: Sigivald at April 30, 2004 at 07:12 AM

" If Nightline wanted to honor our dead, they could run stories on how much our boys have accomplished with their sacrifices, or run this stunt on Memorial Day, or any one of a hundred other stories."

This is what I'd like to see. Stories about what our soldiers have done. If one of the dead were a relative of mine, I'd rather see stories about what's been done by the soldiers than just hear names read.

To me, just reading the names without telling what these men and women have achieved is a not so-subtle way of telling me they just went there and died. No purpose. Nothing accomplished, just death. This does not honor our dead. It just lets us know they are dead.

Hello!! We know people die in wars. We know many loved ones have died, and will die, in our current war. WE ARE NOT STUPID.

The elites in our nation want us to believe this current war is not worth fighting and dying for. They are upset because the majority of the US Public believes otherwise.

As someone who has loved ones serving in Iraq, I am very concerned about their safety. I'd love for them to come home and be safe. However, I also believe if we don't confront the enemy now, our children will be faced with the task. The Islamic fascists are not going to go away. We face them now and let them know we aren't going to be taken over.

To stop more losses by the coallition, the answer is not to surrender and leave. The answer is to kick some serious a@@. Let's fight with what we have and show them what it means to wage war.

Perhaps a few cities being levelled wouldn't hurt. Neither would the arrest and trials of officials in Saddam's regime. I mean the lower level ones also that gave aid and comfort to Saddam&Sons. No amnesty.

Posted by: Chris Josephson at April 30, 2004 at 08:00 AM

That the program claims they didn't know it was sweeps week when they scheduled this (yeah, right) proves to me that they're (a) liars of the worst order and (b) hypocritical bastards who'll do anything to push their anti-Bush agenda.

And they wonder why people don't watch TV anymore.

Posted by: Barbara Skolaut at April 30, 2004 at 08:55 AM

sinclair group, which owns 39 tv station in us, ordered its affiliates to pre-empt tomorrow's broadcast, as undermining war effort. now, the left will scream censorship. let them yell!

Posted by: niels at April 30, 2004 at 10:04 AM

You have to understand, media "titans" like Ted Koppel, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather really DO think we don't know about any of this unless they deign to tell us. It's why they're so down on the internet. We can't be trusted to look up facts for ourselves.

Posted by: Richard McEnroe at April 30, 2004 at 10:43 AM

'Non-Combat Deaths', 'Combat Deaths' of soilders from other countries. Are these not worthy sacrifices? I am sorry for all the fallen, but dead is dead and those in the theater of war that were killed are worth just the same. They essentially took the bullet or the bomb that could of hit someone else. They are all deaths that should be morned equally.

This is political, this is business and this is shameful.

If they were serious about this they would have done it for other conflicts before this and they would do it on Memorial Day.

Shame on you Ted Koppel, Shame.

May you get what you deserve.

Posted by: Keith at April 30, 2004 at 11:34 AM

Nightline used to be good when it was a short setup and then TK holding someone's feet to the fire, "With all due respect Mr --". Since they abandoned that format, it is rarely worth watching anymore.

That said, I'm a bit surpised at TK's post-war attitude. I remember on one of his final spots as an embed, he ripped a strip off the BBC (not by name, unfortunately) for their "Baghdad Bob says this, but the colalition says this: who to believe?" reporting.

Posted by: Ted (not Koppel) at April 30, 2004 at 01:51 PM

For those of us faithful to the VRWC commandment: "Thou shalt not honor any other than Fox," I don't see a problem here. Charlie Gibson's pimp-slap of Kerry this week gave a brief glimmer of hope -- so much for that being a trend toward non-bias.

And fuck Comedy Central while we're at it. Jon Stewart's always been a smarmy arsehole, and Spike TV is growing into quite the decent replacement. Yes, indeed, Ken.

Posted by: geezer at April 30, 2004 at 02:34 PM

Awwww...Jon Stewart is funny. Liberal, yes, but the rare leftist with a good sense of humor. I actually think there's hope for him. Give him twenty years or so and he'll come around.

Posted by: Nathan at April 30, 2004 at 04:51 PM

Koppel: What a cocksucker.

Posted by: the markman at April 30, 2004 at 04:56 PM

Nathan: before 9-10, we all had tons of time, 20 years and more... for a brief moment, post 9-11, Jon Stewart pulled his phoney-baloney "I'm really pissed, but being a phoney wanker, I'll leave it to the jocks" pose...

.. it's served him (and the rest of Hollowood) well since then.

Our kids and kids' kids will read about this time, and with a bit of luck, will read something resembling truth about how folks in the media handled the age-old conundrum of "Do I tell the truth, or do I make a Dollar?"

Who would've laughed at someone making jokes about Guadalcanal, or Iwo Jima? Better yet, how many vets (or those related to said vets) would laught at said jokes?

Jon Stewart can yuk it up with Bob Kerrey--I and probably a lot of others will just get mad, and remember.

The jokes aren't about an intern's dress this time, Brother...many of us WILL remember these times, quite vividly. Like they always do in war.

Posted by: geezer at April 30, 2004 at 06:00 PM

I think President Bush should take the wind out of Koppel's sails and read the list into a teleprompter himself.

It's hard convincing people that we just don't like Koppel (or trust him), and any resistance to the idea itself makes us appear heartless or like we are hiding something. It's like this coffin ban - an excellent idea, but hard to justify to the democratically challenged.

So, I say get the President to read the damned names. Those boys and gals died for us (Oops I forgot, they died for the Poor Grateful Iraqis™...), and there is nothing inherently wrong with honoring them. I just object to that pinko Kopple getting the gurnsey. Creep was probably never in any damned war.

Posted by: Endgame at April 30, 2004 at 08:56 PM

You guys are warped.
If it happened in a church you'd bow your heads. It happens on TV and you get pissy.

Tell me, what did you do on Anzac day this year ? Did you just roll over & go back to sleep because "people already know" that men and women died in ww1.

Ohh, and you boys and girls should go yell at PBS news. They've been having a moment of solence with names & photos for the dead of Iraq for the last year. Bastards!

So, I say get the President to read the damned names. Those boys and gals died for us (Oops I forgot, they died for the Poor Grateful Iraqis™...), and there is nothing inherently wrong with honoring them.I just object to that pinko Kopple getting the gurnsey

Sure, doesnt bother me who does it.
A president remembering the dead would be even better.
(Ohhh though wait. He'd be paid too!, probably not as much as Koppel, but i can bet if it occured Tim wouldnt run with a story talking about how much bush earnt whilst reading the names.

Kopples hasnt taken anyones place doing this. His show chose to do it.

Now though, Kopples a "cocksucker" for wishing to reading the names of the dead. I wonder if "Marskman" screams similar abuse at the Australian soliders who read the names of our dead on november 11.

Posted by: DrShrink at April 30, 2004 at 09:49 PM

Sorry for the previous posts spelling.

Still, even if we accept the wild claims that Koppels "anti-bush", & that this is one whole stunt, what do you think will occur on the show ?.

So far hes pledged to read the names, showing photos and names.
How is that dis-respectful ?

Tell me, if the names were to be read out by Bill O'Reilly on a Fox News special, would you all be complaining so bitterly ?
I think not. So is the standard now that only pro-war supporters can read out the names of the dead ?

P.s. Why did i get a "questionable content" error on this site for entering the surname of this Fox network presenter

Posted by: DrShrink at April 30, 2004 at 11:50 PM

This Fox News presenter.
Damn rusty html skills.

Posted by: DrShrink at April 30, 2004 at 11:53 PM

Just as with the photographs of coffins arriving at Dover, Koppel's reading of the names of the dead has nothing to do with honor or patriotism. Like most liberals he's doing the zombie shuffle behind the anti-war parades of the 60's and 70's hoping to alienate the public from their support of the war. Sadly, I think the zombies are winning.

Posted by: Theodopoulos Pherecydes at May 1, 2004 at 02:01 AM

This undoubtedly is an anti-war political statement by ABC. Nevertheless I think each and every one of these individuals deserves to be recognized as the indispendible human beings they were. Nightline should include those non-American coalition members who have been killed too.

Posted by: S.A. Smith at May 1, 2004 at 12:48 PM