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Koppel Sees 'Daily Show' as Editorial Cartoon

September 01, 2004|Elizabeth Jensen | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Take it from Ted Koppel: Not only does the venerable "Nightline" anchor like Jon Stewart, his satirical counterpart -- he even thinks he's important.

"I can't think of anything better for society right now than a program like Jon's that says things with humor that quite literally we cannot say," Koppel said Tuesday, after taping an appearance on Stewart's Comedy Central program "The Daily Show."

Koppel and Stewart started what appeared to some to be an old-media-versus-new-media smackdown during the Democratic National Convention. But they say their back-and-forth -- which began during Stewart's appearance on ABC's "Nightline" -- was never a "blood feud."

"We thought we were being very, very funny, but apparently not," Koppel said Tuesday.

In the July broadcast, Koppel had noted that "a lot of television viewers -- more, quite frankly, than I'm comfortable with -- get their news from" Stewart.

The two then debated whether humorists or journalists had more leeway to get to the truth of news stories, with the comedian insisting that his role was to be "the dancing monkey."

Tuesday, Koppel said "it never was a debate. Jon and I agree. I think Jon Stewart is to the coverage of news what a good editorial cartoon is."

Not that Koppel is ready to jump into the Stewart school of giving the news. After drawing laughs with some bantering on "The Daily Show" on Tuesday, the host tried to walk Koppel into using a vulgarism that had figured in an earlier riff.

Koppel steadfastly refused, primly changing the phrase into "do that which is anatomically impossible."

"Without being pompous about it, if you are too much of a fool on a broadcast like that, you can't go back to being a serious newsperson," Koppel said later.

The two continue their shtick tonight, when Stewart makes a return visit to "Nightline."

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