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Ted Koppel won't go to the conventions

Don't look for Nightline's Ted Koppel in the booth at the Republican National Convention this summer.

Or at the Democrats' shindig in L.A., for that matter. Unless "there's an outbreak of real news" at either event, Koppel won't take his ABC show on the road.

"We probably won't go," Koppel said at ABC's gala celebration of Nightline's 20th anniversary. "There's no final decision yet, but these conventions will probably be, as the last ones were, pretty much foregone conclusions."

More than 500 admirers, including U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and Sen. Arlen Specter, were at the Library of Congress in Washington to honor the best interviewer with the worst hair on television.

Back to the conventions: Koppel plans to cover them "as we would any other news event, by sending one or two Nightline correspondents and producers. And they will cover it thoroughly, but not at the great expense of taking the whole program to the site."

Koppel caused quite a stir in 1996 when he ditched the GOP confab in San Diego after two days, saying there wasn't enough news to justify his presence. He didn't even show up for the Democrats in Chicago.

As for what constitutes "real news," that's up for debate.

"The fact that we don't know the vice-presidential candidate is not exactly the kind of news that requires you to bring a whole program to the site," says Koppel, 60, who has chronicled every convention since 1964.

Even in prime time, Koppel says the major networks shouldn't cover the conventions "unless there's breaking or major news, not simply three days of the parties having a good time."

_ Times wires