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Bury, Sievers Were Koppel's Nightline Picks

White House correspondent Terry Moran will be the new Washington anchor for Nightline (there will be three anchors), and James Goldston, former senior producer of prime time specials and investigative reports, is the executive producer.

Good people, says exiting anchor Ted Koppel, but if he had had his pick, Chris Bury would have succeeded him in the single-anchor format, with Leroy Sievers as executive producer, Koppel told Larry King Monday night on CNN.

Koppel said that he and executive producer Tom Bettag had gone to their bosses five years ago to talk about the day when the two might leave and offered up that succession scenario. "But, you know, those decisions are made by other people," he told King.

Sievers wound up leaving a year ago after he and ABC failed to agree on contract terms. Sievers also cited the planned format changes as a reason for his departure.

Bury, who had been hosting the show two nights a week, with Koppel three, will remain on as a correspondent.

ABC decided to go with a multi-anchor format, with more stories from more places, including New York and the West Coast.

Koppel told King he thought the key to Nightline's success had been its focus on a single topic, "that there are stories of such importance in the world today that we felt and I think have been able to demonstrate over more than 25 years now that it's worth doing a half an hour on those programs."
Of the multi-anchor format--two in New York, one in Washington--Koppel told King that he hoped it would be a success, and realized that there were other ways to do the show, and that the decision was being made by people who had to make a profit: "They're all good people and we'll see what happens. It's sometimes a little bit difficult to have more than one anchor because an anchor and an executive producer can work together on making a program the best they possibly can.

"I hope it doesn't end up being such a competitive situation among the three of them that the thrust of the program is in any way diminished but that's really up to the executive producer and them and they've got good people doing it and I have every reason to hope and believe that the show will be a success."

Koppel said that success will depend on chasing the news, not demos: "[W]e have all been affected and changed by the competition that you guys and cable have brought to us.

"When I began at ABC 42 years ago basically there was very little competition. There was NBC. There was CBS. And then we were kind of fifth in a three network race. ABC was far, far behind.

"But with the arrival of CNN and FOX and CNBC and MSNBC and all the others that are out there it has clearly changed the landscape. The one thing I worry about: As long as news divisions, wherever they may be, keep covering the news because they believe something is not only important but is going to have a tremendous impact on the American public, we'll be fine.

"If news programs begin to evolve based purely on which segment, which demographic of the audience a news department is trying to reach, then I think we're going to be in trouble."