Nightline Vet Musters Out

Nightline co-executive producer Leroy Sievers is exiting the broadcast.

In a statement Friday, Sievers said: "My contract expired in September and the company has made it clear that it is considering fundamental changes to the format and direction that broadcast takes in the future. We were unable to agree on those changes and are currently negotiating the terms of my departure.

It was Sievers' idea to do the Nightline roll call of U.S. Iraqi dead, a broadcast that became a national story when Sinclair Broadcasting preempted it.

Sievers, who was embedded with Nightline anchor Ted Koppel during the war, told NPR back in April that the two had gotten to know the soldiers as people and wanted to put faces back on them. He said the idea came from a Life magazine spread on Vietnam that listed the names and faces of a weeks' worth of casualties.

Sievers drew fans not only for his producing, but for his writing on the show's daily e-mail alerts on each night's show. The Philadelphia Weekly had this to say: "Unlike most commercial emailers who try to hook you on their product with gimmicks, Sievers employs a soft sell. He writes about the topic for the night's show, then tells why it's important."

That skill was in evidence in his e-mail on the Roll Call broadcast: "[I]n the end, I don't think it matters what we think. I think what's important is what all of you think. As I have said many times, whether you are for the war or against it, these men and women, whose pictures you will see tonight, have paid the ultimate price in our names. We think it is only fitting that for one night, we present their names. All I would hope is that all of you who watch, like all of us who are working on it, will take a moment at least to think about that sacrifice.
Sievers' exit could signal the beginning of numerous changes for the show, now in its 25th year. Nightline has been considered on shaky ground since at least 2002, when ABC made a play for David Letterman.
ABC continues to look for potential entertainment fare for the time slot, although it could also give the older-skewing news show some entertaining elements of its own to attract the younger demos that Leno and Letterman advertisers are willing to pay more for.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.