Collection inventory

Special Collections home page

Ted Koppel Collection

A description of the collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: Michael B. Dermody
Date: 23 Jan 2015

Biographical History

Edward James Martin "Ted" Koppel (1940 February 8- ) is an English-born American broadcast journalist, television news anchor and author. He is most known for his twenty-five year tenure as anchor and managing editor of the ABC News program Nightline.

Ted Koppel was born on February 8, 1940 in the town of Nelson in Lancashire, England to German Jewish parents who had fled their home country just prior to the start of World War II. Koppel's father, Erwin Koppel, had owned a tire manufacturing company in Germany, and his mother, Alice Koppel, had been an amateur opera singer. The experience of the war in England and its immediate aftermath had an enduring impact on Koppel, and he has recounted in various contexts the influence the BBC radio rebroadcasts of Edward R. Murrow's war reporting had on his early ambitions to pursue a career in journalism. From 1951-1953, Koppel attended the Abbotsholme School in Staffordshire, England, spending summers and vacations with his parents in Frankfurt, Germany. In 1953, Koppel emigrated with his parents to the U.S.

At the age of sixteen, Ted Koppel enrolled at Syracuse University to pursue a major in Speech and Political Science. During his four years at Syracuse University (1956-1960), Koppel was active as an announcer/disc jockey at the University's radio station WAER and served as the station's Program Director during his senior year (1959-1960). During his final year at Syracuse, Koppel broadcast a self-produced radio report, This is Moscow, comprised of interview clips and commentary collected on a summer trip to Moscow on the occasion of the American Exhibition there. After earning his Bachelor of Science degree from Syracuse University, Koppel attended graduate school at Stanford University studying Mass Communications and Political Science (1960-1962). He was awarded a Master of Arts degree in 1962 with the submission of his graduate thesis, Attitudinal and informational changes precipitated by local newspaper coverage of the Eichmann trial. While at Stanford, Koppel met his future wife Grace Anne Dorney. They were married in 1963, the same year that Koppel became a naturalized U.S. citizen.

After graduation from Stanford, Koppel served a short internship at the NBC network before landing his first job as a copyboy for WMCA radio in New York. A year later, Koppel was hired on at ABC News radio along with Stewart Klein, Charlie Osgood, Betty Adams, Howard Hodkins and former WMCA disc jockey Jim Harriott to staff a new daily news program, Flair Reports. Koppel had only been at ABC News a few months when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and one of his first on-air assignments was to stake out the Vice President's residence to solicit comments from Lyndon Johnson. In 1965, Koppel spent several weeks in Selma, Alabama covering the fallout from the Edmund Pettus Bridge incident and the civil rights marches that followed.

Koppel made the shift from radio to television in 1966 when ABC News recruited him to cover the Vietnam War as a foreign television correspondent (1966-1967). While in Vietnam, Koppel produced regular reports for the ABC evening news. In 1968, Koppel returned to the U.S. to cover the Nixon presidential campaign and to serve as Miami Bureau Chief covering Latin American and Cuban affairs. The following year, Koppel was back covering the Vietnam War as Southeast Asia Bureau Chief stationed in Hong Kong (1968-1971). In 1971, Koppel began his first stint as ABC's Chief Diplomatic Correspondent covering Secretary of State William P. Rogers, and then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger through the Watergate years. In this post, Koppel did extensive reporting on China, including traveling with President Nixon on his historic visit to China in 1972. In 1974, Koppel traveled with Henry Kissinger on his shuttle-diplomacy efforts in the Middle East. From 1975-1977, Koppel served as anchor for The ABC Saturday Night News. During a brief hiatus in 1976 while his wife attended law school, Koppel produced daily ABC radio commentaries while collaborating with Marvin Kalb on a novel on Middle East affairs, In the National Interest. In 1978, Koppel produced Second to None, a ground-breaking eleven-part report about US-Soviet military preparedness. That year also saw Koppel return for his second stint covering the State Department (1978-1980).

As Chief Diplomatic Correspondent covering the Carter State Department in late-1979, Koppel was a key figure in ABC's nightly coverage of the ongoing Iran hostage crisis, America Held Hostage (first aired November 8, 1979). In addition to his regular State Department reports, Koppel frequently served as a substitute anchor for the program, periodically relieving Frank Reynolds behind the anchor desk. It was largely the impression he made in this role that influenced then president of ABC News Roone Arledge to select Koppel as the founding anchor for the new late-night news program, Nightline (first aired March 24, 1980). Evolving out of the Iran hostage update program, Nightline grew rapidly into a cornerstone of the network's expanding roster of television news programs. For nearly three decades from its inception (1980 -2005), Ted Koppel anchored the innovative late-night show that featured a unique mix of in-depth reporting, extended live interviews (often with multiple participants), and live updates on breaking news stories. In the era before the emergence of the 24 hour cable news cycle, Nightline was often the only conduit for breaking-news between the evening and morning news reports. In addition to creating the mold for the modern televisions news magazine program, Nightline has contributed important innovations to the practice of television journalism including the use of simultaneous live satellite interviews with multiple participants; the use "natural sound" narration (the "Petacque" technique); the town-meeting discussion/debate format; and the use of Hi8 and hand-held video cameras for the collection of original news footage.

In 1987, at the height of Nightline's initial success, Koppel entered into contract negotiations with the ABC network and its parent company at that time, Capital Cities Communications. Part of these negotiations focused on Koppel's desire to establish his own production company, and in March of 1988 ABC News finalized an agreement to assist in the formation of Koppel's new venture, Koppel Communications Inc. (KCI). ABC agreed to air several KCI-produced news specials and documentaries each year (The Koppel Report), as well as allowing Koppel to produce additional programs for independent distribution through other outlets. Such a deal was virtually unprecedented at its time for a network news figure. The Koppel Report, anchored by Ted Koppel and featuring the production talents of a number of his Nightline colleagues, was an award-winning program that saw the production of 11 news programs over three years (1988-1990). Typically in a documentary format, though also including town hall debates, the programs explored in-depth many of the major events of the day. Programs included examinations of the televangelist phenomenon (The Billion Dollar Pie), life in the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War (Sex in the Soviet Union), the events of the Romanian Revolution (Death of a Dictator), and the Tiananmen Square uprising in Beijing (Tragedy at Tiananmen: The Untold Story).

In 2005, after twenty-five years and with nearly 6,600 episodes under his belt, Ted Koppel decided to move on from his role as anchor and managing editor on Nightline. His last program aired November 22, 2005. Shortly after leaving ABC News, Koppel, former Nightline Executive Producer Tom Bettag, and a group of eight other former Nightline staffers formed a deal with the Discovery Channel to produce a series of news programs and documentaries for cable television. The subsequent Koppel on Discovery (2006-2008) productions included: The Price of Security; Iran: Most Dangerous Nation; Our Children's Children's War; Living with Cancer; Breaking Point; The Last Lynching; and a much acclaimed four-part series on China, The People's Republic of Capitalism. This in-depth exploration of the modern Chinese economy has been singled-out by Koppel as one of his most satisfying documentary achievements.

After 2008, Koppel remained active as a broadcaster, author and speaker, serving as a news analyst for National Public Radio, a contributor to BBC America, and a correspondent for the NBC News program Rock Center with Brian Williams. In addition, Koppel has contributed articles to numerous books and publications, including Forbes, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

In addition to his voluminous broadcast work, Koppel has accumulated a number of writing credits as well. Some of his written works include: In the National Interest (1977, with Marvin Kalb); Nightline: History in the Making and the Making of Television (1996, with Kyle Gibson); Live from the Trenches: The Changing Role of the Television News Correspondent (1998, contributor); Off Camera: Private Thoughts Made Public (2000); Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath (2015).

Ted Koppel has received numerous awards and recognitions over the course of his long career including: the Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award, 41 Emmy awards, eight George Foster Peabody Awards, 10 duPont-Columbia Awards, 10 Overseas Press Club Awards, two George Polk Awards, and 2 Sigma Delta Chi Awards. Koppel was awarded the first Gold Baton (duPont-Columbia Awards) for Nightline's week-long series originating from South Africa, the Gabriel Personal-Achievement Award from the National Catholic Association of Broadcasters and Communicators, and selection as a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the Republic of France. He has received more than 20 honorary degrees from universities in the United States.

[In addition to the material in the Ted Koppel Collection, the following sources were consulted for this biography: Nightline: History in the Making and the Making of Television (Random House, 1996); Off Camera: Private Thoughts Made Public (Vintage, 2001); The House That Roone Built (Little, Brown, 1994); Ted Koppel interview video (conducted by Don Carleton 6/14/2005), Archive of American Television, accessed 10/05/2015 (; Ted Koppel Wikipedia page, accessed 10/08/2015 (]

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Ted Koppel Collection contains over 9,000 media items in videotape, audio tape, optical disc and born-digital formats (including digital archival preservation copies of Nightline episodes, The Koppel Report, and other Koppel related content). The collection also includes over 6,000 Nightline transcripts in digital form.

The vast majority of the collection consists of a comprehensive run of the Nightline program during Ted Koppel's tenure as anchor, 1980-2005. There are approximately 6,600 episodes of Nightline represented in the collection. Virtually all of these episodes are available in digital format, most with accompanying digital text transcripts. Years covered are 1980-2005.

The collection also contains several thousand video and audio recordings related to The Koppel Report and other Koppel Communications Inc. productions, including original interviews, field recordings, production materials and broacast masters. The collection contains material related to all eleven episodes of The Koppel Report: The Billion Dollar Pie; The Blue X Conspiracy; DC/Divided City; Death of a Dictator; Drugs, Crime and Doing Time; The Legalization of Drugs/A National Town Meeting: The Legalization of Drugs; News from Earth; Sex in the Soviet Union; Television: Revolution in a Box; A Town Meeting with Nelson Mandela; Tragedy at Tiananmen: The Untold Story.

The collection also includes examples of Ted Koppel's work for the Discovery Networks, Koppel on Discovery, as well as additional ABC News programs and specials including: Viewpoint, Up Close, Nightline in Primetime, and the Jennings Koppel Report. There is additional miscellaneous material related to Ted Koppel interviews, promotional spots and appearance clips. There is also a small sample of Ted Koppel's radio work while a student at Syracuse University and Stanford University, including the report This is Moscow.

Arrangement of the Collection

Media is grouped by series and episode. Nightline, Viewpoint and Up Close episodes are listed in chronological order.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Digitized media may be accessed at a viewing station in the SCRC reading room.

Use Restrictions:

The programs may be used by students, faculty and researchers in the library and in the classroom for instructional purposes only.

Related Material

Much (but not all) of the collection has been digitized, and transcripts are available for many (but not all) episodes. More information on available formats in given in the appropriate sections of the inventory below. Please see the Ted Koppel Collection website for more information.

Special Collections Research Center also has three digital files containing some of Koppel's work when he was a student at SU (belfer_015391, belfer_015392, belfer_015394). The original source of these is unknown.

Subject Headings


Koppel, Ted, 1940 February 8-

Corporate Bodies

ABC News.
Discovery Communications, Inc.
Koppel Communications, Inc.

Associated Titles

Koppel on Discovery (Television program)
Koppel report (Television program)
Nightline (Television program)
Nightline upclose (Television program)
Viewpoint (Television program)


Broadcast journalism.
Cold War.
Documentary television programs.
History, Modern -- 20th century.
Nonfiction television programs.
Television broadcasting of news -- United States.
Television journalists -- United States.
Television news anchors -- United States.
Television news programs.
United States -- History -- 20th century.
United States -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
United States -- Social life and customs -- 20th century.
War correspondents -- United States.
World politics -- 20th century.

Genres and Forms

Digital audio formats.
Digital moving image formats.
Optical discs.
Video recordings (physical artifacts)


Television journalists.
Television news anchors.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Ted Koppel Collection,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Ted Koppel, 2011.

Table of Contents

Koppel on Discovery 2006-2008

The Koppel Report 1988-1990

Nightline 1980-2005

Up Close 2002-2003

Viewpoint 1981-1997, 2003

Special programs 1986-2005

Miscellaneous media 1984-2007


Note on alternate formats:

Much (but not all) of the collection has been digitized, and transcripts are available for many (but not all) episodes. More information on available formats in given in the appropriate sections of the inventory below. Please see the Ted Koppel Collection website for more information.