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Off Camera: Private Thoughts Made Public Hardcover – October 3, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

The title of Ted Koppel's memoir, Off Camera: Private Thoughts Made Public, promises opinions that its author wouldn't deliver on camera, where he's been the anchor of ABC's popular Nightline program since 1980. And, indeed, he's blistering at times in this book, which is essentially a daily journal from 1999. That year began between President Clinton's impeachment by the House of Representatives and his trial in the Senate. Here's Koppel delivering his prognosis of the situation: "Whichever way it goes, it will leave a nasty aftertaste. The President and First Lady will speak piously of national reconciliation, while their loyalists ram the rockets' red glare up the tailpipes of the right-wing fanatics, who have confused low morals with high crimes." Koppel's comments are not always so interesting, but he's reliably candid. He mentions that Jordan's late King Hussein "had his share of adulterous relationships," that Dan Quayle "is not stupid. He is also likable. But you would feel uncomfortable serving under him in a platoon," and that Henry Hyde once informed him privately that "he was incontinent following his prostate surgery."

There's no particular theme to the book; these pages simply collect the thoughts of an important newsman during the course of a year (whose noteworthy events included not just the Clinton trial but also NATO's war with Serbia). Sometimes they're pompous: "I'm off for a meeting with Bill Bradley. It's at his request, which is a clear signal that he's running for the presidency." Sometimes they're funny: "Let's combine all the awards ceremonies for the communications and entertainment industries and name that one event after the single piece of equipment used by all of us--the microphone. I suggest calling the occasion 'the Phonies.'" Koppel is occasionally offbeat, as when he compares George W. Bush to Vanna White, and often informative, as when he's recommending books like Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden or Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (which he once gave as a gift to Clinton). Off Camera is an eclectic package of thoughts and diversions that will by turns intrigue, frustrate, and entertain readers. --John J. Miller

From Publishers Weekly

This is the spoken version of the daily journalDcentered around major news events (Clinton's impeachment trial, the war in Kosovo) and his personal reflections on themDthat newscaster Koppel began on January 1, 1999. Woven between the news and his opinions are personal tidbits such as reminiscences of his childhood in Germany and England, his fear of growing old, his love for his wife, his bouts with depression, his constant travels and the double-edged sword of celebrity. Listeners will readily recognize Koppel's Nightline-style delivery, although they may be surprised to find that the way Koppel reads from his memoir is no different than the way he reads from a TelePrompTer. The consummate journalist, he remains objective in delivering everything from the death of a friend and colleague to his plans for building a house. Koppel is an observer, a watcher, and although he does harbor opinionsDmany of which are clearly stated hereDthey run second to his hard-nosed reporting, even when he himself is the story. Simultaneous release with the Knopf hardcover (Forecasts, Sept. 11). (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (October 3, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375410775
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375410772
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #447,070 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Clint Hunter on October 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Ted Koppel, host of ABC's "Nightline" television show, presents a personal journal in which he muses on the daily events which took place during 1999. His comments range from the insightful and controversial to the personal and mundane. Among other topics, the reader will learn Koppel's thoughts on such things as the state of American journalism -"a sort of competitive screeching;" on the United States Army - more of a buraucracy than an effective fighting force; on a survey of college student's sexual attitudes - shocked that 60% don't consider oral sex as sexual relations; on the weather - irritated that forecasters have to exaggerate by including heat and wind chill indexes.
The book is a quick read. It is an intimate, if somewhat tedious, look at the man millions of Americans think they know through his television persona. Those looking for a well reasoned analysis of the major events of the closing year of the century will be disappointed. Those who can take the book for what it is may find it mildly entertaining.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on November 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Ted Koppel is easily one of the most respected journalists we have the pleasure of listening to and watching almost daily. He has honed his craft for 36 years, and has anchored "Nightline" for nearly 20 years. If peer recognition is used as a measure of his contribution and talent, 32 Emmy Awards, 6 Peabody Awards, 9 Overseas Press Awards, and several others clearly demonstrate he is held in high regard.
As the book takes place in a daily entry format, it is not as fluid as more traditional prose, and Mr. Koppel clearly enjoyed having some fun while documenting the remarkable events that a successful career, that is his, entails. I refer specifically to his asides about his food shopping at Giant Supermarkets. These light diversions are at times extremely funny and serve to demonstrate a wit that I was not familiar with. Even though they reside on competing networks, he clearly could step in for Andy Rooney if the occasion arose.
The thoughts recorded over the year of 1999 are in the main serious by themselves, and in the specifics of the topics he describes. He is brutally candid about an enormous range of issues, and this is the only reason I can think of that would cause some readers to not like this book. I still believe his insights are valuable even if one or more may not be in line with your own.
If you are a supporter of President Clinton, you will not like this book. Mr. Koppel has strong feelings about what a President should be, what a leader is, and Mr. Clinton does not meet any of them. The Clintons evidently feel the same, as when Elie Wiesel asked that Mr. Koppel be one of his 5 friends at a dinner for him at The Whitehouse, the invitation was never sent. Though Mr. Koppel never expected the invitation to be honored, it clearly offended Mr.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By shirley lieb on November 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book of Ted Koppel's private thoughts. One never thinks about the tearful goodbye's to a reporter's loved ones before leaving on a dangerous assignment. Nor considers the unpleasant conditions which much be endured while reporting such a story. I found that the book put a much more human face on neat and tidy reports we see on the evening news. It was also interesting to hear Ted's take on the major news stories of the year. Opinions that could not be shared on national TV.
It gave a certain level of comfort to know that a person who has such control over what we hear of the news, is really just a regular person who goes to the store, gets gas for his car and is excited about the birthday of his grandson.
A quick read. I skimmed some parts about the Chechen's. But then isn't what he said in the book after all. We, as a nation ,are not too interested in that news.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Ted Koppel. That voice, the music, the graphics. I grew into television news with Ted-- though I called him Mr. Koppel in our private, if fictional, chats about world events. From that stage, I somehow expected a giant to emerge from the pages of "Off Camera", and that giant of a man should know all and tell all because, who could do it better? This is not that sort of book. It does not gossip; it does not lie. It is Mr. Koppel, though, and he's got a great deal to let us in on.
What works in this diarist's format is the jangling juxtapositions between waitng for the caller I.D. guy and musing over, "Oh, incidentally, Boris Yeltsin threatened NATO with nuclear war yesterday, if it doesn't stop bombing Yugoslavia. Everybody assumes he's kidding" (92). This sort of mingling of the mundane and the geopolitical reminds us that we cannot wholly escape either world-- it is as reckless to ignore the din of geopolitics as it is to ignore the phone bill. He's saying, "Hey! I, Mr. Big Shot Nightline Guy, have to deal with the daily dumb stuff. Why don't YOU try reading a newspaper?" And yes, he's a little testy on this. And no, he doesn't hold out much hope for what Americans have become. ....
"Off Camera" is the voice of Ted Koppel: wry, commanding, knowing. There are spurts of dark humor (the moments of a life stolen while exchanging 32 cent stamps), anger, wonderment, acceptance and love. It is the writing of a journalist and the musings of a man whose sorted out his own mortality. He's a Mr. Koppel who doesn't much like President Clinton either (he'd be dishonest to say otherwise and his reasoning is solid--even though I think he's wrong). In the end, it's Ted Koppel and there are lessons to be learned. Though not a great book, this is one worth owning.
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