By DAVID BAUDER
NEW YORK (AP) — Veteran newsman Ted Koppel, who reports on Friday’s “Rock Center” about young offenders in adult prisons, said NBC hasn’t done Brian Williams and his young newsmagazine any favors with its scheduling shuffles.
The show debuted on Halloween 2011 and now airs on Friday after previously being on NBC’s schedule for Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.
“Just when you think somebody might figure out when it’s on and want to see it the next week, they move it to another place,” said the former “Nightline” anchor. “That’s not helpful, and I think Brian deserves more support than that.”
He said Williams is “a powerhouse of a guy, and I think he’s going to emerge triumphant in the end.”
“Rock Center” has been averaging 3.8 million viewers a year this season, although it recorded less than 2.8 million last week in its Friday at 10 p.m. time slot, the Nielsen company said.
Koppel does about four or five stories a year for “Rock Center,” in addition to some writing, work at National Public Radio and lecturing.
His story on Friday talks about thousands of youngsters placed in solitary confinement in adult prisons. They’re sent to these prisons out of a public desire to see people who commit adult crimes punished like adults. To protect them against violence and sexual predators in prison, they’re kept apart from the general population.
But being placed in solitary confinement creates its own set of problems, Koppel said. His story focuses on the experiences of Kevin Demott, a Michigan man with mental health issues who attempted armed robbery at age 13 and was kept in solitary for many months.
“I’d been interested in prison-related stories for a long time, and I had no idea we had so many kids in adult facilities,” Koppel said.
Despite NBC’s ratings problems, network TV still carries plenty of power to get the issue in front of people, he said.
“If a couple of million people end up seeing this piece on Friday night, and 1 percent may be moved to do something about it and say, ‘this is crazy, we’ve got to get these children out of prison…,’ then hallelujah, God bless the network.”
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