CABLE TELEVISION CNN gets back to hard-news roots
The network's new showcase series, 'The Situation Room,' will focus on breaking news.
By DAVID ZURAWIK
Extending his efforts to return CNN to its hard-news roots and close the ratings gap on the Fox News Channel, network president Jon Klein on Monday announced another round of sweeping changes at the pioneering network celebrating its 25th anniversary.
Miles O'Brien, co-anchor of CNN's "Live From," will join Soledad O'Brien as co-anchor of the cable channel's "American Morning Show." He replaces Bill Hemmer, who after 10 years at CNN is leaving the network, according to Klein, "to pursue other opportunities."
Klein, who since taking over in December has been trying to shake the network out of a major ratings slide, also announced a midsummer launch for the network's new showcase series, "The Situation Room," a three-hour weekday show that replaces "Inside Politics," "Crossfire" and "Wolf Blitzer Reports."
Judy Woodruff, longtime anchor of "Inside Politics," left the network Friday. Blitzer will be sole anchorman of "The Situation Room," which will focus on breaking news rather than the chatter and artificial confrontation of "Crossfire."
Rationale for changes
"All of the changes are based on the principal that we ought to be doing what CNN has always done best: deliver the latest and most important news and information with the greatest intelligence," Klein said Monday.
"The move to Miles O'Brien in the morning is aimed at making our show the newsy alternative to the other morning programs," he said. "'The Situation Room' will simplify our afternoon schedule and give us the chance to concentrate our resources on the biggest news stories of the day. It amps up our reportorial power."
Originating from Washington, "The Situation Room" will incorporate political analysts Jeff Greenfield and Bill Schneider, along with former "Crossfire" panelists Paul Begala, James Carville and Robert Novak. But breaking news and information gathering will be emphasized.
In a memo to CNN staff Monday, Klein described the new afternoon show as being "modeled in spirit after the White House Situation Room." He said it would feature Blitzer presiding over "teams of our top correspondents and experts to offer a range of up-to-the-second reporting on issues of homeland security, politics, and national and world affairs." The program's goal: to make the program a "one-stop shop for viewers interested in monitoring the most significant events of any given day."
New executive producers
The changes reached into prime time, with Klein on Monday also naming new executive producers for two weeknight series, "Anderson Cooper 360" and "Paula Zahn Now."
Veteran news producer Victor Neufeld will take over Zahn's program later this month. He is best known for his pioneering work in the prime-time newsmagazine format, having served as senior and executive producer of "20/20" from 1979 to 2000.
"'Paula Zahn Now' is already a good show," Klein said. "But with Neufeld, it will become a great one."
David Doss, former executive producer of ABC's "PrimeTime Thursday" and "NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw" will assume control of "Anderson Cooper 360" later this month.