The “Nightline” Broadcast

Assuming it doesn’t conflict with the T-Wolves’ playoff victory, I plan to watch tonight’s much-publicized “Nightline,” which will feature a reading of the names of every American soldier killed in Iraq.
The broadcast has been roundly attacked by the conservative side of the blogosphere pretty much since it was announced, though I can’t figure out why; the main arguments seem to be that the show has a hidden agenda to undermine the war, that Ted Koppel is a radical leftist who seeks to exploit the war for partisan political gain, and that the whole enterprise is a big stunt aimed at the first night of sweeps month. One owner of stations has even refused to air it.
As someone who did (and continues to) support the war in Iraq and who hasn’t watched “Nightline” in at least a year, my retort to those three arguments is, “bullshit,” “bullshit,” and “bullshit.” First of all, if it were “Nightline”‘s agenda to undermine the war effort, don’t they have other tools at their disposal? Such as, say, throwing up pictures of blood, severed limbs, and other such wartime horrors? A listing of names accompanied by American flags and music isn’t exactly the sort of material that’s likely to ratchet up anti-American feelings.
As for Koppel, is he a liberal? Most likely. Did he oppose the war in Iraq? I would imagine he probably did. But come on- we’re not dealing with Noam Chomsky here. Koppel is one of the most respected journalists in the country, and in more than 30 years I don’t think any reputable source has ever questioned his honesty or his integrity. Unless you’re of the mind that being a liberal signifies a lack of both. If anyone in television news has the gravitas to pull off such a move, it’s Ted Koppel.
And thirdly, anyone who calls tonight’s broadcast a “sweeps stunt” clearly knows nothing about how sweeps work. The four sweeps periods are when the networks are measured for ratings and demographics as to set advertising rates for the following three months. Is one night of “Nightline,” on a Friday, really going to have that big an effect on that 30-day average, and thus on ABC’s bottom line? I’d imagine that ABC’s television brass, if they hadn’t just been fired, would be more concerned with the upcoming series finale of “The Practice.”
As I said, I’m planning to watch the show, and if it turns out I was way off I’ll say so. But if there’s some reason why it’s inherently wrong for ABC to commemorate the dead, then I’d love to hear it.

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