11/4/04: A Show Is Born (1979)

A Nightline Moment From 1979

By TED KOPPEL

Nov. 4, 2004 —

Exactly 25 years ago today, an event occurred that electrified most Americans, probably cost Jimmy Carter his presidency, and created a new program that ultimately would come to be Nightline.

The name of that program at the time was "America Held Hostage," and it referred, of course, to the fact that several hundred Americans had been taken hostage and were being held at the U.S. Embassy in the Iranian capital, Tehran.

Over the course of several months, "America Held Hostage" became such a fixture on television that ABC News decided to turn it into a permanent broadcast. On March 24 of next year, we'll be celebrating our 25th anniversary.

What we want to do between today's "America Held Hostage" anniversary and the Nightline anniversary in March is show you some of the important, interesting, funny, sometimes dramatic events that have occurred on this program over the past 25 years.

We're going to begin with what happened before either "America Held Hostage" or Nightline was created. It was the Sunday news, anchored by my good friend Sam Donaldson, and he was introducing his young friend -- me.

From Nov. 4, 1979:

SAM DONALDSON, ANCHORING: Ted Koppel, our diplomatic correspondent, is standing by at the State Department with the latest on that. Ted?

TED KOPPEL: State is doing what it can, but for the moment, at least, that doesn't appear to be much. There has been no direct contact with the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. That building is under total control of the demonstrators.

DONALDSON: Ted, the ayatollah's support for this action is ominous, is it not?

KOPPEL: Well, it may or it may not be ominous. The State Department is making a particular point to distinguish the Ayatollah Khomeini from the Iranian government. That's why it's being so restrained from its direct references to the government.

DONALDSON: Thank you very much, Ted.

The ravages of time. That's what 25 years can do to you. Over the course of the next few months until our anniversary in March, we'll be doing these little clips from Nightline most nights at the end of the program. I'll also be talking to some of the people who were guests over the years, and some of our former colleagues who have gone on to much more important things in the intervening time.