Ted Koppel, Receiving Award, Says News Outlets Avoiding ‘Civic Responsibility’

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By: Joe Strupp

Ted Koppel, honored with the President’s Award from the Overseas Press Club Thursday night, used his time as keynote speaker to urge that foreign reporting not only be maintained, but increased in the face of growing international tensions that go beyond just terrorism.

Honored for his more than 40 years in television news, much of it as an overseas reporter and anchor, Koppel told the crowd at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel that the focus on profits and ratings is too often overshadowing news, especially on the foreign beat.

?Foreign news has always been an expensive proposition. There was a time when our industry accepted the responsibility and bore the cost. When you turn your news center into a cost center you?ve lost your meaning,? Koppel said in the hotel?s expansive 36th floor ballroom, whose massive windows looked out over the New York City night lights. ?We?re in a different line of work from most of those in the corporation. But for all of these years, we have told ourselves and our families that what we did overseas was genuinely needed.?

Citing the obvious terrorism threat globally, Koppel pointed out that as the threat grows, so does the need to cover it. ?Our enemies are evolving all over the world and we are closing our foreign bureaus down,? he said. In discussing the nation?s major news outlets, he said, ?they have almost surrendered even the pretense of civic responsibility. That is not just a shame, but a travesty.?

Acknowledging that when he began at ABC News staffing and coverage was even smaller than today, Koppel declared that at least then the mission of coverage was clear. ?We knew who we were back then,? he said. ?The central mission in those days was still to do the hard news. Focus the attention of the American people on the news of the time.?

More E&P coverage of the Overseas Press Club dinner here.

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