Ted Koppel: Local News is ‘More Important Than it Has Ever Been’

Ted Koppel, a television journalist best known for anchoring ABC’s Nightline from 1980-2005, decried the state of journalism today, saying people now can get on the Internet and write whatever they feel like and have it labeled “news.”

“The tragedy of it is that the more dramatic, the more outrageous, the more licentious the message, the more people it reaches,” Koppel said. He was invited to speak on Wednesday to MyMCM’s volunteer board of directors about the importance of their work at their annual retreat.

Without training, “millions of people” take to the Internet, said Koppel, a longtime Montgomery County resident. People read what they write and treat it with the same authority they would give to national media, he said. Yet these same people would never hire a plumber without a license. “It’s terrible. It has nothing to do with journalism.”

What is needed is good local journalism, which Koppel called “more important than it has ever, ever been.” He urged MyMCM staffers to investigate and then write about issues that are on people’s minds. For instance, he said, many people, including he and his wife, are struggling to get a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.

They are both at least 75 years of age and have existing conditions, and therefore eligible to be vaccinated in Montgomery County. Yet, they haven’t been able to obtain appointments, and this week Gov. Larry Hogan is telling residents 65 years and older to sign up. There aren’t enough vaccines for those who are at least 75, he repeated, stressing that local reporters need to investigate and report on what is really going on.

Local media “is the best place for training some of these young people,” he said during a virtual meeting.

Former President Donald Trump “was very, very good for business,” and increased ratings, Koppel noted, but stressed that is not how journalism should work.

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