March 24, 2015

Although its start can be traced back to an earlier program about the Iran hostage crisis, ABC’s “Nightline” officially began 35 years ago today.

Frank Reynolds anchored the ABC News program, The Iran Crisis: America Held Hostage, which was launched on November 8, 1979, four days after the U.S. embassy in Iran was seized. When Reynolds left to cover the 1980 presidential campaign, his role was taken up by ABC’s chief diplomatic correspondent, Ted Koppel.

On March 24, 1980, the 20-minute, Monday-through-Thursday program became permanent and was renamed “Nightline”. The show started covering topics besides the hostage situation and expanded to a half-hour on January 5, 1981. On March 30th it also began airing on Fridays.

Here is part one of a special report “Nightline” produced for its tenth anniversary.

(Links to parts two and three of the anniversary program)

Image-Nightline Timeline 1

Nightline created a historical timeline to mark the 30th anniversary of the show in 2010. (The timeline is still posted online.)

Image-Nightline Timeline 2

The current “Nightline” co-anchors are Byron Pitts, Juju Chang and Dan Harris.

See Also:
5 journalism lessons from Nightline’s Byron Pitts.”
By Lauren Klinger, Poynter, March 16, 2015.

Technology has changed a great deal since Nightline started 35 years ago. In 1980 most viewers didn’t even own a computer.

Today, social media services such as Twitter and Instagram play an crucial role in reaching the program’s audience. This is how “Nightline” describes itself on Facebook:

“Nightline is your all-access pass to the biggest news stories from around the globe. From the crises in Ferguson to the Malaysia Airlines plane crash, we delve into the most important domestic and international breaking news stories every day. We bring you the info you want and need to know….”

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