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Nightline’s Success? “A Relentless Focus on the News”

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The NYTimes’ Bill Carter writes about the late night shakeup that has pushed ABC’s “Nightline” to the top of the ratings four weeks and counting.

“Nightline” was never really a contender for most-watched status in late night until Jay Leno left “Tonight.” “I think there’s another big shift happening in late night,” [Nightline EP James] Goldston said. David Westin, the president of ABC News, said, “When Jay left, some people were freed up to consider other alternatives.”

And as Goldston told us recently, Leno’s move to 10pm in the fall could help keep Nightline on top. “The show that’s #1 one is going to be playing five nights a week,” Goldston told TVNewser in April. “Clearly that’s an opportunity for people currently watching The Tonight Show to come and watch.”

“There are a lot of comedy shows, and there’s only one Nightline,” Goldston says.

Carter points out Nightline’s recent success has been pinned on the coverage of the death of Michael Jackson. A point one of the three co-anchors, Cynthia McFadden rejects: “It’s wrong-headed and myopic to think our success is Michael Jackson-driven. The notion that we’re only benefiting because of Michael Jackson is laughable. We won’t be No. 1 for long if that’s the case.”

> Related: MediaLife Magazine also has a story about the show’s success: “‘Nightline’ has endured, and now it’s become the No. 1 show in late night.”

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