Revamping Old Media
Cynthia McFadden is an anchor and correspondent for ABC News who currently co-anchors Nightline and Primetime. Recently named co-anchor of “Primetime” on ABC News, she has been at that network since 1994, when she joined as a legal correspondent. She became a correspondent for “PrimeTime Live” in 1996, and in 2005 she was named co-anchor of ABC News “Nightline.
McFadden has conducted numerous interviews with politicians and cultural figures from Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf to Madonna. She was the legal editor and narrator of the ABC News documentary series “In the Jury Room,” the first television program ever to show jury deliberations in a death penalty case. The hour-long documentary she co-anchored on school integration 50 years after Brown v. Board of Ed has won several awards, including first place documentary from the New York Association of Black Journalists; in 2001-02, for her reporting on 9/11, McFadden and her ABC team received a Dupont Award. McFadden's other awards include the George Foster Peabody Award, an Oversees Press Club Award, six Cine Golden Eagles, the Ohio State Award, two Silver Gavels from the American Bar Association, the Grand Award at the New York Festival and the Blue Ribbon at the American Film Festival.
Cynthia McFadden has appeared as a guest on numerous talk and news shows, including 20/20 and The Charlie Rose Show. Before joining ABC, from 1984-1991, she was the executive producer of Fred Friendly's Media and Society seminars, based at Columbia University, and she became an anchor and senior producer at Courtroom Television in '91, the year of that network's inception. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude from Bowdoin College, and received her law degree from Columbia University.
Topic: Revamping Old Media
Cynthia McFadden: First of all, we were resoundedly bashed when we first came on the air, and probably for some good reason. We were reinventing the television program as it happened, on the air, live. I mean it was Ted Koppel one night. It was us the next night. And it was “Memo to Self: Never try to replace a legend.” It’s impossible. None of us could be Ted Koppel. All we could do is be whatever we were. And you know viewers wanted Ted Koppel. They were mad that he was gone. They didn’t like any of us, and they wanted us to go back to the old “Nightline”. You know the old “Nightline” served an extraordinarily important function, I think – did it better than anybody else. As we all know it started during the Iran hostage crisis, did one story. And not just a half hour one night, but night after night, after night and perfected, I think, a really beautiful, in depth, thoughtful approach. The truth is we felt in coming in that very few stories could we sustain for a whole half hour every night. In fact our pieces are just about the same length. Our lead piece, which usually tends to be eight to 10 minutes, is as long as or longer than the old pieces on the old “Nightline”. What is different is Koppel then used to do a conversation following the piece which would illuminate it in some way. We’ve eliminated that for the most part. It was a gamble. It was a gamble that there were at least two stories sometimes . . . two stories and a half maybe every night that viewers might be interested in; and that indeed if they weren’t interested in the lead, maybe they might be interested in the second piece. A year and a half later, James Golston who really . . . our executive producer who really had the vision has been proven right. The numbers are through the roof. Nobody thought . . . We all though we’d be lucky to hang on to the franchise. I’m happy to say we’ve been able to just expand the franchise. It’s really . . . It’s succeeded beyond anybody’s expectations, certainly mine. I mean the numbers are extraordinary.
Recorded on: Jul 7 2007
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