The Corner

Stephanopoulos in 2014: Ted Koppel Asked Me, ‘Are You Sure You Can Be Fair?’

Each year the National Press Foundation awards the Sol Taishoff Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism. The 2014 recipient? None other than embattled ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos, whose acceptance speech includes the following interesting tidbit (starts at 1:54).

“I remember Ted Koppel coming to me when I first started,” Stephanopoulos recounted, “he pulled me into his office, and he said, ‘Are you sure you can do this? Are you sure you can be fair?’ And I have to say, it rocked me back on my heels.” He says he also met with “pointed questions” from ABC anchor Charlie Gibson.

Stephanopoulos then read from a card passed down to him via Koppel from 1930s newsman Ed Klauber of CBS. The card — which included lines from a memorandum issued by Klauber on September 5, 1939, to guide CBS journalists in their coverage of the war that had just erupted in Europe — outlined the responsibilities of a reliable journalist, said Stephanopoulos.  

“The job of a news analyst,” he read, “is to point out the facts on both sides, to show contradictions with the known record. They should bear in mind that in a democracy it is important that people not only should know but should understand, and it is the analyst’s function to help the listener understand, to weigh, and to judge, but not to do the judging for him.”

“That’s a standard that was set at the beginning of the Broadcast Age,” Stephanopoulos finished. “It rings as true today as it rang then. It’s as clear a statement of our mission as I could possibly imagine.”

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