Why you should care
Phil Donahue, Ted Koppel and Cokie Roberts were pathfinders back in the day, and their influence lives on.
We’re inspired by many things here at OZY, especially some of the bold moves taking place in the media world lately. In August, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos purchased the Washington Post for $250 million. Last week, 30 Rock star Alec Baldwin debuted a serious new Friday night talk show on MSNBC, Up Late. Just three days ago, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar announced he would invest $250 million on a serious new media venture with Glenn Greenwald, who broke the NSA spying story. Why? Rising concerns about press freedom in the U.S. and around the world.
All this activity got me thinking about an earlier era, when three big talents were pioneers in their own right. Before Oprah ruled, there was Phil Donahue, the provocative daytime talk show host who started new conversations instead of repeating the same old discussions. Cokie Roberts was a young gun who brought the new and the next to shows like This Week with David Brinkely, later co-anchoring the same show with Sam Donaldson. And with Nightline, Ted Koppel brought some serious journalism to late-night TV. At a time when most shows just wanted to make you laugh, he gave us something tough and smart to think about.
So here’s to the pioneers, either today’s or those past.