11/30/2005 [b]More is much less in revamped ‘Nightline'[/b] By Robert Bianco, USA TODAY In all but name, Nightline is gone. The show that premiered on ABC Monday night (or early Tuesday in the East, post-football) was a solidly produced newscast. But in tone, look and content, it was far closer to a half-hour version of 20/20 than it was to the distinctive classic Ted Koppel led for 25 years — and that is a tragedy. Something extraordinary has been replaced by the commonplace. Though Koppel’s loss is deeply felt, the problem with the new Nightline extends far beyond the ascendance of the news troika of Cynthia McFadden, Terry Moran and Martin Bashir. The fatal flaw is the destruction of the old format: one host leading us through one topic for one half-hour. Now you have three stars presenting three stories; none were given significantly more time to develop than they would have found on most any other televised newscast. The change was most glaring in the segment that most closely resembled the old Nightline. McFadden led a rushed satellite debate between two Catholic clergymen over the church’s new policy on gay priests. What was missing, beyond the time needed for a true exchange of ideas, was what Nightline once did best: the introductory package that provided background and context, and often was the best-produced news story of the day. Otherwise, McFadden played the traditional anchor role, introducing reports by Bashir and Moran, who is in Iraq. Though Moran’s taped interview with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad was newsworthy, we’ll apparently have to wait for him to address the question in the segment’s title: “Iraq: Stay In or Pull Out?” The wild card would seem to be Bashir, the British journalist best known here for his Michael Jackson interviews. As if to show his softer side, he opened with a profile of the California School for the Deaf football team — the kind of one-sided, cheers-and-tears feature you used to turn to Nightline to escape. We may see better work in the weeks ahead, but the show as currently structured will never be Nightline. ABC has sacrificed what made the show special in the vain pursuit of an audience it assumes has no attention span and no ability to process complex ideas. Perhaps ABC is on the right ratings track, but wouldn’t you think that viewers who were turning to a network for news at 11:30 were there because they wanted what Nightline had to offer: depth, context, balance and time? What they’ll find now is a competent newscast, but one that has gone from a show you stay up to see to one you watch if you’re up. And who, exactly, needed another one of those? Source: http://www.usatoday.com/life/television/reviews/2005-11-29-nightline_x.htm

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