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Radio Waves: Jay Kernis Settles In at CNN

Gail Shister
TVNewser Columnist

Kernis_2.7.jpgBeing the new kid is never easy. Ask Jay Kernis.

After a total of 20 years at NPR, Kernis, CNN’s first-ever managing editor, was feeling a tad overwhelmed on his first day at the gleaming Time Warner Center.

“It’s like the first day of school,” he said Monday. “I’m afraid I’ll have to eat alone in the lunchroom, watching the cheerleaders and football players.”

Kernis got his own private cheerleader when his boss, Nancy Lane, flew to New York from Atlanta “to hold my hand throughout the whole day. She wanted to make sure I got through the hazing unscarred.”

Hazing? Hardly.

Larry King and Wolf Blitzer made “Welcome to the neighborhood, Jay” tapes that were played for Kernis as a surprise during his NPR goodbye party last Friday.

CNN president Jon Klein says the network needed a managing editor because its editorial process “had been very decentralized.

“We wanted somebody who could gather up all the great editorial ideas that are flying around CNN at any given time and make sure they show up on our air,” as well as on other platforms.


Like Klein, Kernis is a CBS alum. During his 1987-2001 tenure, he produced segments for such broadcasts as 60 Minutes. Coincidentally, 60 was part of Klein’s purview when he was No. 2 there.

“Jay just has the right pedigree,” Klein says. “I still hold up 60 Minutes and NPR as two outstanding examples of broadcast journalism. Jay has worked at both places with distinction.”

Kernis first joined NPR in 1974, leaving for CBS 13 years later. He returned in 2001. Most recently, he was senior vice president of programming.

His transition from public radio to all-news cable won’t be difficult, Kernis says. It’s about the storytelling, stupid.

“There are different ways of packaging or telling those stories. I’m a radio person, but I consider myself a visual person. It’s what today’s media requires. The audience wants all kinds of great content, on whatever device they happen to have.”

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