Koppel Laments Some Of The Changes In Journalism

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It turns out there is such a thing as having too much of a good thing, and in Ted Koppel's opinion, it's communication.

On the surface, it seems an odd thing for a former newsman to dislike-easy access to instant communication-but Koppel told the GAC audience that the public is paying for these technological advances.

"I'm something of a Luddite," Koppel confessed on the GAC stage. "Luddites were people who believed that machines were a threat to civilization, and I feel that way about cell phones, laptops and Blackberries. They can be of enormous value to us when important things happen, but they inundate you when unimportant things happen."

And since unimportant things happen more frequently than important things, the inundation is ever-present and nonstop, and beyond being an inconvenience, Koppel said there is much more at stake.

The Wall Street Journal, for example, recently published an article about Howard Stern's first day on the air with Sirius Broadcasting. And as Stern is known for, his first day on the air was filled with filthy language and sex talk.

That same day, The Wall Street Journal also reported that the top grossing movie was "Hostel"-a film about two American men lured to a foreign country by the promise of easy sex with beautiful women, only to find themselves locked in a dungeon and tortured for the pleasure of the wealthy.

And then there was the news item about the awards that are the equivalent of the Oscars for the pornography industry.

"Why do we question the fact that fundamentalism is enjoying a resurgence here and throughout the world," Koppel asked. "We can well understand how parents around the country might turn to the New Testament or the Torah or the Koran. We need to find shelter somewhere, we must find beliefs and morality somewhere."

The search is on, he said, because the media and the government have ceased to reflect these values-instead offering up obscene language, violence and sex.

Koppel ties this all back to the instant communication provided by technology and the advent of "60 Minutes," which was the first news program ever to make money.

Prior to that, there was only so much time-and even less money-that would be devoted to news programs, so "we knew what we had and we could only cover the stories we believed were important," he offered. In today's instant-gratification world, the focus is not necessarily on what is most important but what is most recent and/or what is most likely to make more money.

On a separate tack, Koppel discussed the need for the U.S. to take the avian flu more seriously and start planning now for a pandemic. Even if the avian flu doesn't come, he said, such planning efforts are still entirely worthwhile, as they could be applied to other catastrophes, natural or otherwise.

Other Notes From GAC

WASHINGTON-In addition to the two 18-year-old cats Ted Koppel cares for, there is also a Labrador Retriever with an unfortunate stomach problem in the Koppel household.

He was named by Koppel's son: Damien. "That was his second choice. His first choice was Cannabis, but I drew the line at that. I wasn't about to be going around saying, 'here Cannabis, come Cannabis.'"

When the vet diagnosed the aforementioned "unfortunate stomach problem," the vet told Koppel the dog needs more roughage, such as beans, broccoli and cauliflower, which can then be added to Damien's food.

"When my wife sends me to the grocery store, the list usually reads: 'one loaf bread, one jug milk and Damien's vegetables," Koppel related, explaining that they simply buy a bag each of frozen beans, broccoli and cauliflower.

One day, Koppel was standing in line at the grocery store, when the man behind him in line recognized the former "Nightline" host and asked, "Aren't you Ted Koppel?" When Koppel said that he was, the man looked at him, looked at the food he was buying and looked back at Koppel and said, "Damn, I eat better than you do."

Good News: CMG Not On The Hook

WASHINGTON-Just in case the regularly scheduled events at GAC weren't exciting enough, some lucky attendees had some extra "excitement" injected into their GAC experience. A bus taking GACers from WOCCU's reception at the Russian Embassy was in a traffic accident, striking a car at an intersection. No one was hurt, other than the slight delay as the bus driver and the driver of the other vehicle exchanged information.

The very next night, a fire on the third floor of the Marriott Wardman sent guests-many of them GAC attendees-out into the cold at 2 a.m.

Also, Batman Shoots Robin

WASHINGTON-Keying off Ted Koppel's dissertation on the avian flu, GAC Emcee Paul Berry told attendees not to worry. President Bush heard about Koppel's concern and decided it was time to take decisive action, so he bombed the Canary Islands.

Frist Describes His Job

WASHINGTON-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist on being the Senate Majority Leader: "It's like being a groundskeeper at a cemetery. There are a whole lot of people underneath you, but they're not paying any attention to you."

A heart-lung transplant surgeon when he isn't leading the Senate, Frist said a doctor friend of his suggested that at least when, as a politician, he puts a knife in someone's back he will also, as a doctor, be able to take it out.

Chairman Caught In Cat House!

WASHINGTON-Ted Koppel was not the only Cat Box Man in attendance at GAC. Noting that his marriage to his wife, Louise, has given him a new perspective on the three Cs (closets, cats and commitment), CUNA Chairman Juri Valdov decided it was time to confess that he, too, takes care of cats at his house. "Rather than thinking of cats as roadkill, we now have two cats whom we dearly love," Valdov said. "Now that Ted Koppel as come out of the closet [as Cat Box Man], I think we should start a support group."

And the famously bald Valdov couldn't help but make a reference to Koppel's "rug" comments by adding, "no rug could help this."

Valdov was also proud to show off a photo of him and Marie Osmond sharing an embrace, saying, "eat your hearts out"-and hastening to add that he couldn't take that photo home with him, as his wife might not appreciate it.

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