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Posts Tagged ‘Jim Walton’

CNN ‘Starting Point’ Staffers Brace Themselves

The announcement that CNN is totally revamping its morning show and scrapping Soledad O’Brien‘s “Starting Point” has sent shivers through her staff.

Insiders tell us Executive VP Ken Jautz and VP Bart Feder addressed the staff after the show went off the air today. Suffice it to say, the era of Jeff Zucker is underway.

In a nutshell, the execs said they have no answers for the staff and were unable to address most of their questions. Members of the staff were assured their jobs were safe, but one veteran of the changing show carousel at CNN says they would be naive to believe that.

“Every single one of these people should be preparing their resumes and trying to get out of that building as fast as possible,” a network insider told FishbowlDC, explaining that staffers are worried for their jobs. The prevailing feeling is that O’Brien, who previously worked with Zucker at NBC, will end up in another role.

For the month of January, “Starting Point” drew an average of 264,000 viewers. MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” drew 468,000 and FNC’s “Fox & Friends” drew 1.07 million. “Morning Express” on HLN drew 218,000. The broadcast shows (CBS, ABC, NBC) drew millions more than any of the aforementioned programs. In other words, “Starting Point” is behind everyone except its sister network HLN, and HLN is getting close.

Another network insider with a vantage point to this morning’s meeting said it was hilarious to watch Jautz and Feder address the “Starting Point” staff, considering they were two of the main culprits who contributed to the potential demise and dismantling of the show.

From day one, “Starting Point” was in disarray, according to multiple sources aware of the drama going on behind the scenes of the show. It wasn’t supposed to debut in January, 2012, but the decision was made to rush it on the air to coincide with the Iowa caucus. From its launch the show was never fully staffed; all the promises of branding and promotion never materialized; and the constant executive in-fighting over what to do with the show angered its host and staff.

Former CNN Managing Editor Mark Whitaker, who announced his resignation Tuesday, loved the panel format because he desired the show to have the same buzz as MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” But Jautz hated the panel, resulting in it being downsized from 7-9 a.m. to 7:30 to 9 a.m. And when Soledad was off, the panel was only on from 8-9 a.m.

Jautz also detested a single-anchor format. He preferred a two-anchor format, even going as far as focus-group testing Brooke Baldwin and John Berman when O’Brien was away.

So as Whitaker and Jautz waged a constant battle over who would control the destiny of CNN – a scenario set up by then-CNN President Jim Walton when he divided up the duties of Jon Klein when he was canned – “Early Start” and “Starting Point” were ground zero for their battle.

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Can a Married Couple Save CNN?

The dynamic CNN duo of Mark Whitaker and Amy Entelis were at it again Friday, shooting another pilot that they hope could potentially be the savior for a network going through growing pains.

Whitaker, Executive VP and managing editor of CNN Worldwide, and his hire to head program development, Entelis, are joined at the hip in trying to come up with new ideas for the network, desperately hoping the next boss will keep them around when the anticipated senior executive bloodletting comes to pass.

Who is playing Batman and Robin this time? CNN contributors John Avlon and Margaret Hoover an independent and moderate conservative on air, and off, married. That’s right, CNN is seriously thinking about launching a show with a married couple. They’re no James Carville and Mary  Matalin, a big liberal and conservative. Some still find them entertaining.

Avlon, a columnist for The Daily Beast, has fast become a favorite of the CNN suits in New York, especially with Whitaker, a longtime member of the NY/DC media elite who, insiders say, would love nothing more than turn CNN into a TV version of the NYT.

Avlon is the designated independent voice on the network, even though he is a former speechwriter for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He also has a fantastic head of hair.

Hoover, a middle-of-the-road conservative, also has the kind of pedigree that makes Whitaker salivate. She’s the great-granddaughter of former president Herbert Hoover; an author; and landed at CNN several months ago after failing to come to contractual terms with Fox News. She also brings some of that Fox News hotness, which some think CNN could stand to adopt.

The pilots generated by the program development unit at CNN have left much to be desired as of late, so Entelis reached out to the force behind the CNN Heroes initiative, Kelly Flynn, to helm the pilot. She was a former exec in the program development unit when CNN’s former Executive Director of Program and Talent Development  Joel Cheatwood, who left for Fox News and is now Exec. VP of Mercury Radio Arts, ran the joint. (Boy is he missed!).

Entelis, Flynn, Avlon and Hoover spent all of Friday shooting the pilot in New York, hoping it will be good enough to impress outgoing CNN head honcho Jim Walton, and Phil Kent, head of Turner. With Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes applying the pressure to resuscitate the dying brand, the effort has an urgent feel.

But Avlon and Hoover should beware of mixing it up on the air. The last CNN married couple that was seen daily – John King and Dana Bash – later headed for Splitsville. Sure, she wasn’t a co-host on John King, U.S.A., but she was on so much when it launched that it should have been called the John and Dana Show.

Is ‘Unconventional Wisdom’ What CNN Needs?

Despite the cancellation of CNN’s “John King, USA” and the recent announcement by Worldwide CEO Jim Walton that he’s a goner by the end of the year, the CNN DC bureau is trying to remain relevant. So last week they shot a pilot.

Could this be the shot in the arm they need?

The show is called “Unconventional Wisdom,” and is a pet project of CNN’s managing editor Mark Whitaker, who oversees the network’s program development unit.

One of the participants is Gloria Borger, CNN’s Queen of Conventional Wisdom. Shot in the DC’s bureau glitzy new studio, another CNN’er involved is legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Among the bigwigs involved in the pilot is Eric Sherling, CNN’s director of DC Programming, and Amy Entelis, who joined CNN in January as Senior Vice President for Talent and Content Development for CNN Worldwide.

Memo to Mark, Amy and Eric: you better hope the pilot tickles the fancy of Walton. The last time CNN’s remarkably boring DC bigwigs shot a pilot, the reconstituted “Capital Gang,” a typical inside-the-Beltway show that so awful Walton couldn’t stomach 10 minutes of it and reamed out the executives assembled, got up, and left.

Shortly thereafter in March, CNN announced longtime employee Sue Bunda, executive VP of content development and strategy, left to pursue other opportunities. In fact, she was forced out after the horrible “Capitol” pilot. Four months later, her chief lieutenant, Randy Subarsky, vice president of development, was told she was toast but was allowed to finish out the year. Also shown the door was DC bureau chief David Bohrman, now president of Current TV.

Better make the show shine, Mark, Amy and Eric. Your future boss could be watching!

Breaking: CNN’s Jim Walton Resigns

CNN President Jim Walton, who has been with the company for 30 years, has announced that he’s resigning. He will remain with the network until the end of the year.

“CNN needs new thinking,” Walton wrote in a note to staff this morning. “I have interests to explore, I need to give myself time to do [them].”

See various quotes and his note after the jump…

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Media Research Center Prez Cries Double Standard on Rush Limbaugh to CNN’s Piers Morgan

Just minutes ago Media Research Center President Brent Bozell sent a letter to CNN’s Piers Morgan as well as CNN D.C. Bureau Chief Sam Feist and CNN President Jim Walton citing a “double standard” placed on radio host Rush Limbaugh.

As Limbaugh continues to lose sponsors and gets slammed for Slut-gate, Bozell points out that comedian and talk show host Bill Maher called former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin “a dumb twat” and didn’t suffer nearly the consequences that Limbaugh has.

An excerpt: “I am disturbed by your ongoing double standard when it comes to coverage of political rhetoric. On your show, you recently called Rush Limbaugh out for his insulting comment about a Georgetown law school student: ‘Limbaugh’s disgusting comments are the work of an archaic old dinosaur living in a warped, ugly swamp, who thinks it’s okay to degrade decent young women for sport and ratings. Well, it isn’t it. Shame on you, Rush Limbaugh.’  Fair enough.  However you have seemingly turned a blind eye to the similar rhetoric of one of your guests – Bill Maher.”

Bozell says Limbaugh’s apology should be sufficient and questioned why it’s somehow not. He wrote, “When Bill Maher and other leftist commentators make similarly inappropriate remarks, they are practically ignored.  To be fair, you are not alone when it comes to such a double standard.  Indeed, CNN and the media overall are guilty of such unacceptable hypocrisy.”

And, he added, it’s not just CNN: “Limbaugh has been singled out and condemned across the national media – ABC, CBS, NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, NPR, PBS, Associated Press, The
New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today. How many of these outlets have condemned Bill Maher with equal vigor for his attacks on Palin?”

CNN Jim Walton’s Holiday Memo

Who knew? CNN President Jim Walton is not high on the Kardashians. In a holiday memo sent out this morning, he writes about the year that transpired with high hopes for the one ahead.

He boasted: “I think I’ll remember 2011 as the year that CNN’s international reporting reasserted its dominance on the media landscape.  Through an extraordinary news cycle, we told global stories of natural disaster, political upheaval, war and human failing with breadth, authority and timeliness.  We worked together and across our platforms.  Our journalism set us apart.  Our work made a difference to millions who count on us.”

He reflected: “Those are some of the ways I’ll remember this year.  Here’s one more: I marked my 30th anniversary as part of CNN, doing work I love in a place unlike any other.”

He expressed gratitude: “We asked a lot of you this year and I am grateful to each of you for working so hard and delivering in so many ways. Thank you.”

See the full internal memo…
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Calderone Gets Scoop on Amanpour

In what has been a very weird news day, in the end, HuffPost‘s Michael Calderone got the scoop that everyone basically already knew: ABC’s Christiane Amanpour is leaving ABC’s “This Week” to start up a new program on CNN International. She’ll remain at ABC.

NYP’s Page Six hinted weeks ago that Amanpour was on her way out the door. But earlier today NYT‘s Brian Stelter committed an online snafu when he tweeted that he’d heard the news from a single source. That was meant to be a Direct Message not a tweet. OOPS! Nonetheless, outlets like Poynter wrote on his premature act extensively and WaPo‘s opinion media blogger Erik Wemple declared him a pioneer journalist.

Soon enough, Calderone weaseled his way in and grabbed the story. We’re not sure who ought to be commended here. Officially Calderone, but unofficially — Page Six?

So now the race is on — will Jake Tapper finally land the “This Week” slot that so many thought he should have already gotten? Come on, Stelter, DM us!

UPDATE: ABC’s George Stephanopoulos will resume hosting “This Week” as well as “GMA.” See the memos from CNN’s Jim Walton and Amanpour after the jump…

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CNN Searches for DC Bureau Chief, Bohrman Reassigned

David Bohrman, CNN’s DC Bureau Chief and head of special events has been named senior vice president and chief innovation officer for CNN Worldwide. For the past nine years, Bohrman has served as the network’s executive producer of election coverage, and considered largely responsible for the CNN/YouTube debates, the “magic wall,” and anchoring from the convention floors.

In a memo announcing the new assignment, CNN President Jim Walton said of Bohrman: “We are giving his passion for what is new and next in emerging technology a bigger canvas. He will continue to contribute to the creation of formats and editorial approaches, but now across CNN’s multiple platforms.”

In the meantime, Managing Editor of CNN Worldwide Mark Whitaker is on the hunt for a new DC Bureau Chief as Bohrman begins his new gig on May 1st.

NBC’s Whitaker Named Managing Editor of CNN Worldwide

NBC Washington Bureau Chief Mark Whitaker is leaving the network for an executive role at CNN.  Whitaker, who took the reins of NBC’s Washington Bureau following the death of  Tim Russert, has been named executive vice president and managing editor for all CNN Worldwide brands.  The New York- based position will place Whitaker at the helm of CNN, CNN International, HLN and the websites, effective February 14, 2011.

“Our aim is to position a strong managing editor, working closely with the head of each CNN network and Web site, to generate reporting and analysis that consistently stands out, sparks conversation and captures the true meaning and relevance of the events in the news,” said CNN Worldwide President Jim Walton. “Mark is a distinguished journalist and news executive who is experienced in leading large enterprises, and I am pleased that he will help direct our long-term editorial approach and strategy.”

Before joining NBC in May 2007 as senior vice president, Whitaker was vice president and editor-in-chief of new ventures in the digital division of The Washington Post Company. He was editor of Newsweek from 1998 to 2006, during which time the magazine won more top editorial awards and nominations than at any time in its history, including four National Magazine Awards for coverage of the attacks of September 11, the Iraq War, the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the 2004 elections.

See Whitaker’s FishbowlDC Interview from April of 2009 here.

NBC’s Zucker Out, CNN’s Klein Fired

(L to R): Jonathan Klein and Ken Jautz

Two huge changes today in major network news — NBC’s Jeff Zucker and CNN’s Jonathan Klein are both hitting the road. Zucker informed staff Friday that he was leaving. Klein was fired earlier this week. TVNewser has a copy of the memo Zucker wrote to staff.

Ken Jautz, who heads HLN, will step in to Klein’s post.

An excerpt from NYT‘s Brian Stelter‘s story: “The change is effective immediately. Mr. Klein was fired earlier this week by his boss Jim Walton, the president of CNN Worldwide. In a telephone interview, Mr. Klein said Mr. Walton “told me they wanted to restructure things this way, and thank you very much, and good luck.”

An excerpt from NYT‘s Bill Carter‘s piece: “In an interview at NBC’s executive offices, Mr. Zucker, who is 45, said the decision to leave the only employer he has ever worked for — a decision that he acknowledged was not his own choice — became inevitable after a meeting two weeks ago with Steve Burke, Comcast’s chief operating officer.”

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