This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, April 30, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Patriotic or anti-war propaganda? Ted Koppel will be reading the names of our war dead tonight. Every American killed in Iraq. The owner of eight ABC affiliates choosing to air a rerun instead...
The "Nightline" idea we've been talking about inspired by a 1969 issue of "Life" magazine listing every soldier who died in Vietnam that week. Heather Nauert has a look back at that issue and its impact.
HEATHER NAUERT, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, historians say that one of the turning points of the Vietnam War was the week of June 27th, 1969. That week "Life" magazine put out an issue called, "Faces of the Dead in Vietnam, One Week's Toll."
The issue showed family photos of all 241 servicemen who died in Vietnam in one particular week. That week that issue of "Life" was credited with galvanizing the anti-war movement. Ralph Graves put that issue together as "Life's" managing editor. And that's today's big question. What kind of impact did this "Life" magazine spread have in the summer of 1969?
RALPH GRAVES, FMR. LIFE EDITORIAL DIRECTOR: I was absolutely astonished by the impact that it had. We got so many letters, so many phone calls. It had — it really touched a nerve with readers. You know, if you were alive in America that week and over 15 years old, you heard about that story or saw it. Everybody talked about it. I've never had a story that had so much impact.
NAUERT: Now since then, you've received many compliments from family members, but you've also received criticism that it was a political agenda.
GRAVES: Of course.
NAUERT: Did life have a political agenda at that time, because it was said that in the mainstream media they were anti-anti-war.
GRAVES: The editor in chief of Time Inc. and many other editors had been very pro-Vietnam war, very staunch. Real hawks. The issue that story was put together by people who were both hawks and doves. Our purpose was not political, although the impact turned out to be political. Our purpose was to be human, to say these are not just numbers. These are not just bodies. These are real faces. Most of them very, very young.
NAUERT: Sure. Your editor in chief later changed his mind and he supported a policy of broad systematic withdrawal. Did that influence you? That must have in some way.
GRAVES: I was part of the influence on him. I was against what was happening in Vietnam. And I was one of the people he cited in his book as an editor who had argued against his position.
NAUERT: Now, when it was heralded as helping to turn the tide of the war against — strongly, strongly against Vietnam, how did you react to that?
GRAVES: I reacted more from the appreciation of the fact that the story had had impact on people, that it had really brought the war into people's hearts, not just into the numbers and minds. That mattered more to me than the political impact, although I only learned later that we were thought to have had a huge impact.
NAUERT: Now, in terms of ABC, everyone seems to have an opinion about their agenda. Some people say it's the right thing to do. Others saying it's simply a political agenda. What do you think about ABC's decision to run this program of "Nightline" with so many of the names?
GRAVES: At this time?
GRAVES: My guess is that Ted Koppel, with whom I have not discussed the story, felt exactly the way I did when — as soon as the story is ready, run it.
NAUERT: Do you suspect ...
GRAVES: Excuse me. I would like to answer slightly more than that. If I were trying to have a political impact with the story, I would probably run it two weeks before Election Day.
NAUERT: But you have to admit, the timing does seem a little suspicious.
NAUERT: The eve of President Bush saying the end of the — the war is now over, major combat operations are now over, and the fact that it sweeps.
GRAVES: That is a very good news peg in my opinion. Yes, that's a perfect time to run the story. News pegs are invaluable, as you know in your business. I think they chose the right time to do it, but if they wanted maximum political impact, probably two weeks before the election would have been more powerful.
GRAVES: OK. Ralph Graves, formerly of "Life" magazine. Thank you very much.
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