By DAVID BAUDER, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — At 82, Ted Koppel is equipped to take a long view when he speaks about what divides Americans.
The former “Nightline” host, now an occasional contributor to “CBS Sunday Morning,” replaces Jane Pauley for the first time this weekend to host a special themed show on the subject.
The show includes stories about the divisions created by social media and the Internet, radio shows, and disparities in wealth. Delve into a border dispute between Oregon and Idaho and how other countries view Americans today. Koppel contributes three stories himself, including interviews with singer John Legend and television producer Norman Lear.
Koppel is distraught over much of what he sees, particularly the speed at which hate is spreading online.
Yet on the show, he will cite Gallup poll results that illustrate the remarkable change in six decades, from opposition to acceptance, in how Americans felt about black-white marriage.
His point? We have been here before. Things can, and do, change.
“There’s this problematic tension that runs through the American countryside that periodically we get tired of loving each other very much and start finding all the things we don’t like about each other,” he said. “It is nothing new. We’ve done it many times before, most significantly with the Civil War, of course.”
The special edition of “CBS Sunday Morning” was initially planned for more than a month ago, but was postponed after the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Koppel, who hosted ABC’s “Nightline” from 1980 to 2005, has contributed to the CBS show for about five years. His enthusiasm for the subject led Rand Morrison, executive producer of “CBS Sunday Morning,” to suggest that he introduce it.
Morrison said he was surprised at how active Koppel has been, particularly in generating ideas. Koppel’s story from last year about how Mount Airy, North Carolina is trying to capitalize on a connection to the fictional Mayberry from “The Andy Griffith Show” was particularly well received.
“For an old man, it suits me,” said Koppel, who has lived in Maryland for more than 50 years.
This weekend’s special edition is deliberately titled “A Nation Divided?”
“You will walk away from the broadcast knowing that we have been here before as a nation,” Morrison said. “It is not a terminal situation. We want to take a good look at the battlefields, so to speak. But we want to leave you with the sun on the horizon.”
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