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Koppel's latest quest: bringing thinkers to fore

The ex-ABC newsman gathers a panel of Nobel laureates for his first Discovery Times Channel cable special.

July 12, 2006|David Bauder | Associated Press

NEW YORK — Now that he's no longer anchoring "Nightline," Ted Koppel says he doesn't usually stay up late to watch it.

"My whole schedule has changed," he said in an interview. "Now I get up at 6:30 in the morning, which wasn't something I used to do."

For those who have missed their regular Koppel fix since he signed off from ABC News on Nov. 23, he'll be host of a one-hour special with interviews of Nobel Prize winners on the Discovery Times Channel, at 7 and 10 p.m. Monday. It's the first thing to come on the air out of his new deal with Discovery.

Koppel continued to decline opportunities to publicly judge how ABC has changed "Nightline" since he left, except to say that he saw Terry Moran's "first-rate" series of reports from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Koppel is also heading to the site of the American prison for terrorism suspects to report a segment on his first full-fledged Discovery special, about the post-Sept. 11 tensions between the need for security and the protection of civil rights.

His Discovery Times special, "Petra: A Quest for Hope," is an outgrowth of Koppel's participation in last month's conference in Jordan that drew together Nobel laureates to talk about world problems. Koppel said he had been invited by one of the organizers, Elie Wiesel, to moderate a seminar.

Upset about the lack of attention the conference received -- Koppel dryly notes in his introduction how many more people cared about the "American Idol" finale -- he said he asked Discovery executives whether he could put together some sort of show.

"You couldn't imagine a nicer, more dedicated group of people, and you can't imagine issues that deserve more attention," he said of the conference participants. "They're just not getting any."

Most of the program is a discussion between Koppel, the Dalai Lama, Irish peace activist Betty Williams, literature award winner Wole Solinka and Columbia University medical researcher Eric Kandel.

"I couldn't help but be moved by their decency, their sincerity," Koppel said. "In the final analysis, what's going to change human behavior if not some people setting an extraordinary example?"

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