- The Washington Times - Friday, May 5, 2000

It was a big party for a small man who casts a large shadow Ted Koppel of "Nightline."
Though he was loath to admit it, the baron of broadcast news was having a great time.
"As a rule of thumb, the person who is the center of attention usually has the least fun of all," he said, smiling. "You don't get time to eat or talk to all your friends. Still, this isn't all that bad."
No one begrudged Mr. Koppel his limelight or his fun. Media luminaries, politicians and power brokers came out in full force Wednesday night to laud the 20-year old show and its driving force.
"It's a well-deserved party," ABC News anchor Peter Jennings said.
Under the Library of Congress' elaborately frescoed ceiling, Mr. Koppel, 60, held court as a sea of famous faces many of whom were repeat "Nightline" guests circled the balcony galleries while nibbling on duck, crab cakes and salmon and chatting as they waited to talk to the legendary interviewer, whose show began as an accident.
In 1979, "Nightline" began as a late-night update on the Iran hostage crisis. After a few weeks of shows in which there was little news to update, it began to focus on different subjects each night, featuring often adversarial and diverse newsmakers and experts. Soon after, it was here to stay.
"I am more proud of 'Nightline' than any other program," said Roone Arledge, chairman of ABC News and the party's co-host with ABC News President David Westin. Both preferred talking about "Nightline," rather than the recent, much-ridiculed "interview" of President Clinton by movie heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio or the network's recent tiff with Time Warner over payment for news broadcasts (which resulted in a recent program blackout in several major cities).
"['Nightline'] has demonstrated that a serious news program can compete with Letterman and Leno and beat them," Mr. Arledge said. "No one else has a program like it or a host like Ted."
The party attracted major newsies, including Sam Donaldson, Christiane Amanpour, Diane Rehm, Ben Bradlee, Bill Plante, Tim Russert, Michael Barone, Jeff Greenfield and "Nightline" substitute anchor Chris Wallace. It also lured a host of newsmakers left, right and center from administrations past, present and future who have been subjected to Mr. Koppel's incisive interviewing style: Sens. Charles S. Robb, Arlen Specter and Joseph I. Lieberman, former Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, superlawyer Bob Strauss, Attorney General Janet Reno and Labor Secretary Alexis M. Herman.
" 'Nightline' is an institution," Mrs. Herman said. "I hope it stays on for another 20 years."
Miss Reno echoed the sentiment. " 'Nightline' continually provides fair and balanced coverage. I usually don't miss it."
There were others who have straddled both journalism and politics, such as George Stephanopoulos, who first appeared on "Nightline" when he was a 20-year-old intern for a Washington lobbyist in 1981. But it wasn't for a hot-button political issue.
"I knew the man who threatened to blow up the Washington Monument," the politico-turned-ABC-commentator admitted, calling his first five minutes of fame "an interesting experience."
It is still "the smartest show on television," he said.

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