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Poor Ted Koppel: Chelsea Clinton debut overshadows fine Iraq reporting on Monday's Rock Center



rc_baghdad7_111212.jpgHere's the thing about Chelsea Clinton joining the fold on NBC's Rock Center that I didn't expect.

Bad enough that her debut Monday highlighted all the things critics have complained about regarding her hire; highly coached and severely lacking in TV charisma, Clinton mostly offered a strong argument for why she has rarely faced a TV camera until now.

But Monday's Rock Center also featured a sobering report from a TV legend -- former Nightline host Ted Koppel's return to Iraq after six years, to learn that American personnel stuck there after the official pullout may be under more danger than at any time since the war's brutal early days.

The Iraq report was vintage Koppel, with the crusty anchor highlighting a bomb-detection device the Iraqi government spent great sums to purchase, which he pronounced a complete fraud. He also noted how employees hired by the State Department to discuss relatively routine issues with Iraqi officials travelled in huge convoys, protected by carloads of security personnel and dressed in flak jackets.

What might happen, he wondered, when or if insurgents, perhaps supported by Iran, attack the 16,000 American personnel left behind?

clinton.jpgInstead, there's been a focus on Clinton's debut, including my pal Hank Steuver's most excellent Washington Post piece, which closed with this cool kicker:

"Stories from the Chelsea beat, meanwhile, are all meant to do a few things, very quickly: Highlight some bright spot of good news in otherwise bleak circumstances; indicate how viewers might help out the situation, if so inclined; and (this is never once said, but almost always palpable in the empathetic eyes of the reporter) ennoble the reporter herself, and thereby ennoble the network. This is why Clinton says she is doing television — to make a difference.

Who among us will tell her that’s not what TV does, not really?"

Why, us snarky, critics, of course. Chelsea, consider yourself warned.

See Koppel's piece and her story below.

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[Last modified: Tuesday, December 13, 2011 12:17pm]


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