Ted Koppel's Last "Nightline"

Ted Koppel signs off 'Nightline' on Tuesday ... with Morrie

November 22, 2005

By Maureen Ryan, Chicago Tribune staff reporter

After 25 years as the host of "Nightline," Ted Koppel has chosen to go out in an unconventional fashion.

Rather than have his final "Nightline" broadcast (10:35 p.m. Tuesday, WLS-Ch. 7) feature a series of clips highlighting his most memorable interviews and the news program's most famous moments -- a stroll down memory lane that the retiring newsman deserves -- Koppel gives his last show to a man who has been dead for 10 years.

In the last year of the life of Morrie Schwartz, Koppel conducted a series of interviews with the retired Brandeis University sociology professor. The interviews resulted in three 1995 "Nightline" broadcasts, and, eventually, a publishing phenomenon.

Sports journalist Mitch Albom, who had been a student of Schwartz's, began visiting him after the first "Nightline" interviews aired. Their weekly talks eventually produced "Tuesdays With Morrie," a best-selling book (and later a play and movie) full of advice about facing life and death.

On Tuesday's edition of the show, Koppel interviews Albom about how the "Nightline" interviews prompted him to get in touch with his old professor, and footage from the 1995 "Nightline" interviews with Schwartz, who was dying of ALS at the time, will be re-aired.

Though it may seem like an odd choice for Koppel's exit, Koppel has often gone his own way in the often predictable realm of TV news. And it's to his credit that he clearly doesn't want to make his last "Nightline" broadcast about himself.

Perhaps showcasing Schwartz and his deeply humanistic views is not such an idiosyncratic choice after all. Though he recounts at one point that he can no longer go to the bathroom by himself, Schwartz says in one interview clip that he feels no shame about his physical condition.

"My dignity comes from my inner self," Schwartz says.

The same could be said of Koppel.

Last modified: Friday, 5 October 2012, 2:59 PM