"We have reconstructed the Tower of Babel, and it is a television antenna."
in his commencement speech
to Catholic University
ABC news program originally hosted by television news stalwart Ted Koppel, but since 2005 hosted by a more varied (and younger) group of reporters including Martin Bashir, Cynthia McFadden, and Terry Moran. The half-hour news program deals with topics ranging from the latest in current events to science and the arts. The program began on 4 November 1979, during the Iran Hostage Crisis. ABC began a nightly program called "The Iran Crisis: America Held Hostage". This program eventually evolved into the current version of Nightline in the spring of 1980.
Since then, the program has created many historical moments. Koppel's exclusive interview with Jim and Tammy Baker attracted 42% of the television audience the night it aired. Nightline also has the rare distinction of bringing Henry Kissinger to television more than any other program. (This might be due to the fact that Kissinger tried to hire Koppel as the press spokesman at the State Department.) Nightline is also famous for its town hall meeting segments, in which the program visits a town in the midst of conflict and speaks with representatives from the various sides. Settings for these meetings have included Columbine, the site of the tragic school shooting, various sites in the Middle East, and a small town in Virginia several days after a gay man was shot there.
In February 2002, it was made public that Nightline was on life support at ABC and that it might not survive. Several publications leaked reports that ABC was investigating the possibility of cancelling the program and convincing The Late Show with David Letterman to take its place. This leak created a morass in American media, with notable journalists coming to the support of the program. The possible move by ABC was considered to be the nail in the coffin of serious television news. In the end, the program was not cancelled, and Koppel's contract was renewed. However, three years later, in March 2005, he announced that he would be leaving ABC news entirely at the end of the year, when his contract expires.
In Koppel's last year as anchor, the programme's future was more than ever in doubt. An Associated Press article in February 2005 said that George Stephanopoulos might be taking over the programme and making it "lighter in tone and containing multiple stories" as opposed to the current hard-news, one-topic format. Stephanopoulos did not take over as head anchor, but is an occassional contributor. The rumoured content changes have taken place, with topics such as American foreign policy and the economy still being discussed, but more frequently alongside specials on lifestyle topics such as lucid dreaming and a May 2006 debate on the existence of God featuring Kirk Cameron of Growing Pains fame.
NB: I felt dirty linking "God" and "Kirk Cameron" in the same sentence.