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Live from New York, it's ... 'Nightline'!

October 18, 2005|Scott Collins | Times Staff Writer

Following months of speculation, ABC News on Monday announced details for a revamped version of "Nightline," whose original host, Ted Koppel, will exit the program next month.

Koppel will be replaced by three co-hosts, British journalist Martin Bashir and longtime correspondents Cynthia McFadden and Terry Moran, the network said.

Moran, who has covered the White House, will report from Washington, as Koppel has, while Bashir and McFadden will work from a studio in New York's Times Square. "Nightline' will also add at least eight new staffers to the New York office, bringing the program's total employee head count to about 50.

Broadcasting live from one of the world's busiest tourist hubs is a big change for the 26-year-old "Nightline," a typically sober-minded news program that has often focused on domestic and foreign policy, and has covered numerous serious stories given little attention by the rest of the mainstream media.

James Goldston, who is taking over as executive producer from longtime Koppel collaborator Tom Bettag, sees the colorful setting as a chance to win over new viewers. Except for when big news breaks, such as Hurricane Katrina, "Nightline" usually struggles in distant third place in the ratings, behind NBC's "Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman." "There is no more exciting place on Earth than Times Square at 11:30 at night," Goldston said in an interview Monday. "We'll use that energy to bring people in."

The new "Nightline," which will debut Nov. 28, will feature fewer in-depth interviews -- a stock in trade for the probing Koppel -- and more magazine-style pieces prepared by the hosts or other correspondents. There will also be new sets and new graphics, but Goldston said the program will remain true to its hard-news roots: "I see no change in 'Nightline's' DNA whatsoever. All shows evolve, and have to evolve."

Former ABC News executive Richard Wald said the network seems to have deliberately chosen hosts with complementary skills. McFadden has expertise at legal reporting, while Bashir drew notice for his high-rated, controversial ABC interview with Michael Jackson in 2003. Moran has years of experience covering Washington.

"What they've got is a good mix," Wald said. "This is not your father's 'Nightline.' "

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