- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 29, 2004

One news organization is protesting ABC’s decision to feature anchorman Ted Koppel reciting the names of more than 700 American troops killed in Iraq during an expanded “Nightline” tonight.Baltimore-based Sinclair Broadcasting is pre-empting the live program on its ABC affiliates, citing ethical conflicts.”We find it offensive that Ted Koppel is trivializing the deaths of so many men and women. This is not a one-year anniversary of the war, or Memorial Day. This is ‘sweeps week,’ and he intends to use a news platform for a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq,” said Sinclair Vice President Mark Hyman yesterday.The 17-year-old company, an independent group that owns 62 TV stations countrywide, will pre-empt “Nightline” with its own coverage of the controversy on eight ABC affiliates, affecting broadcasts in Massachusetts, North and South Carolina, West Virginia, Ohio, Florida and Alabama.”We don’t see journalistic value in this ‘Nightline,’ which is sure to stir up negative emotions about the war in Iraq,” Mr. Hyman said. “And the timing — could it be that John Kerry is falling in the polls? Political statements should not be disguised as news content.”Sinclair questioned why Mr. Koppel chose to read the names of war dead “rather than the names of the thousands of private citizens killed in terrorists attacks. … In his answer, you will find the real motivation behind his action.”The accusation follows a week punctuated by controversial use of wartime images: The publication and broadcast of photos featuring flag-draped troop coffins en route to the United States and humiliated Iraqi prisoners of war have fueled discussion about the appropriate use of such imagery in the media.ABC News is defending “Nightline,” which also will be broadcast on the network’s Jumbotron screen over Times Square. The program will use photographs and information gleaned from the Army Times’ “Faces of Valor” online database.”This program is meant as a tribute. It’s an unusual program, and it does not necessarily include reporting. It’s meant to honor those who died in combat, and in nonhostile circumstances,” said spokeswoman Emily Lenzner yesterday.ABC has continually reported on soldiers killed in the line of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, she said.”But after a while, it all becomes numbers. Both producer Leroy Sievers and Ted Koppel were strongly compelled to remember the fallen — that they have a name, a face, a whole life lost. We want to acknowledge that.”A network statement noted: “ABC News is dedicated to thoughtful and balanced coverage and reports on the events shaping our world with neither fear nor favor — as our audience expects, deserves, and rightly demands,” adding that the program “reported hundreds of stories on 9/11” and broadcast the names of victims of the September 11 attacks.Sinclair Broadcast Group and The Washington Times have a collaborative relationship in which reporters for The Times are interviewed for Sinclair’s news broadcasts through a camera in the newsroom.• Contact Jennifer Harper at jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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