The format of the show featured an introduction by the host, then a taped piece on the specific topic of the night; then after a commercial break, there was a live interview related to the topic of the piece.
In 1983, ABC attempted to change the program's format to feature multiple topics and expand it to one hour, as opposed to focusing on a single topic in a half-hour.
By this time, the news program had expanded to 30 minutes.
For much of its history, the program prided itself on providing a mix of investigative journalism and extended interviews (something that continues to be featured to this day, albeit at a reduced extent), which would look out of place on World News Tonight.
This switch proved to be unsuccessful, and after a few months, the original format of the program was restored.
Once the original format returned, reverting to a 31-minute structure, it remained unchanged through the end of Koppel's tenure; it was changed following his retirement.
The program had its beginnings on November 8, 1979, just four days after the start of the Iran hostage crisis.Nightline is usually less sensationalistic than the weekly news magazines (which often emphasize soft news programming, stories of such type – such as pop culture-related stories – Nightline has incorporated to a moderate degree following Koppel's departure), though the program has caused controversy on occasion. In 1984, the program featured an interview with Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger, marking his first live television appearance.In 1982, Koppel interviewed Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) chief Yasser Arafat on the program, in which he had indicated that he would not accept conditions from the U. In honor of the 40th Anniversary of D-Day in 1984, Nightline aired a special edition which "covered" the landings on Normandy as though modern television news, along with satellite reports, had existed at the time.In an interview with Nightline in 1987, Colorado Democratic senator and 1988 presidential candidate Gary Hart admitted to having cheated on his wife, Lee Ludwig, with Donna Rice, in the aftermath of an exposé in the Miami Herald that revealed the affair, leading to his withdrawal from the presidential election.
That year, Nightline broadcast for the first time in the Soviet Union.At the end of the hostage crisis in 1981 (after 444 days), the program – which had been retitled the previous year as Nightline – had entrenched itself on ABC's programming schedule, and made Koppel a national figure.