Just 14 months ago, former Los Angeles Times
editor Shelby Coffey stood on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, where he was introduced by Cable News Network chairman Tom Johnson and other network executives as the new president of financial-news spinoff CNNfn.
Also unveiled that day was CNN's new Street Sweep
program. Time Warner Inc. chairman Gerald Levin joined in the festivities, granting the business show its first big interview.
Times have changed. CNN had the kind of year that cost former network president Rick Kaplan his job. Parent company Time Warner announced a massive merger with America Online Inc., then spent a year closing the deal.
That led up to last week, when Coffey resigned and Street Sweep
was shunted off to CNNfn-two of many cutbacks announced by CNN.
The news network said it would slash its work force by about 10 percent, eliminating 400 jobs-a far smaller number than some had estimated. One-third of the cuts will come from the interactive division, another third from the programming unit. The rest will come elsewhere.
After watching Fox News Channel and MSNBC cut its once-dominant position in the all-news race over the last year, CNN is completely revamping its schedule and adding several personality-driven shows, somewhat similar to those of its competitors.
Network executives-who pulled out of a scheduled presentation at last week's Television Critics Association Tour-said they weren't ready to discuss the details of their new programming strategy. But CNN News Gathering president Eason Jordan told reporters that the retooled CNN would be "scrappier" and would implement cost-cutting moves, such as training staff to use digital video recorders and laptop computers to edit video in the field.
"No longer will a news gatherer work only for TV or radio or interactive," Jordan wrote in a memo to CNN staffers. "Correspondents whose expertise is TV reporting must know how to write for interactive and provide tracks for radio and deliver for them as needed."
Integrating CNN Interactive and its domestic and international cable channels is a key to the new strategy, Jordan's memo said. Earlier this month, News Corp. folded its News Digital Media division, moving oversight of FoxNews.com, FoxSports.com and Fox.com to its cable and broadcast networks.
In addition to Coffey, who said he resigned to start a medical foundation with his wife, CNN replaced the top executives at CNN Headline News and CNN/SI.
The company named Ken Jautz, former managing director of the Time Warner-backed, German all-news channel n-tv, as executive vice president and general manager of CNNfn.
CNN News Group executive vice president Teya Ryan was named executive vice president and general manager of CNN Headline News, succeeding the retiring Robert Furnad.
CNN/SI's No. 2 man, Steve Robinson, was named head of the sports-news channel. He succeeds Jim Walton, who was promoted to president of CNN Domestic Networks last summer. Robinson, Ryan and Jautz will report to Walton.
CNN Interactive president Scott Woelfel, whose unit is yielding oversight of the CNN Web sites to their various networks, also resigned.
The company plans to notify employees who are being let go this week. They'll have until Friday (Jan. 26) to clear out of the office.
"We will place those that we can place [in other positions], and those that cannot be placed will have to go," Jordan said.
CNN will offer severance packages consisting of nine weeks of pay with benefits, plus an additional four weeks of pay for each year of service "for employees who qualify and sign the required severance agreement," Johnson and CNN president Phil Kent wrote in a memo to staffers last week.
After the cuts, CNN will employ 3,950 employees worldwide. By comparison, Fox News Channel employs 880 employees, and MSNBC and MSNBC.com staff about 800 combined.
Despite CNN's broader resources, FNC and MSNBC-both of which launched in 1996-are cutting into CNN's dominance.
CNN won the news-network primetime race in 2000, with a 0.8 Nielsen Media Research rating, but that was comparable to CNN's 1999 performance. FNC pulled a 0.7, up 40 percent from 1999, and MSNBC posted a 0.5, up 25 percent.
FNC's ratings are up significantly since the presidential election: It beat CNN in December, with a 1.2 primetime rating compared to a 1.1 for CNN.
While CNN executives wouldn't detail their new programming strategy, they acknowledged personality- driven programs will play a key role.
"To be distinct, you have to have personalities," said Jordan. "It's no longer [that] you can just have news be the star," Jordan said.
Earlier this month, CNN Gulf War veteran Wolf Blitzer was the first to get his own show, Wolf Blitzer Reports
(weekdays, 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m). Greta Van Susteren, who gained prominence during CNN's coverage of the O.J. Simpson murder trial, now hosts The Point
at 8:30 p.m., which leads into Larry King Live
at 9 p.m.
The network also assigned Bill Hemmer to host CNN Tonight
from 10 p.m. to 10:30 p.m, leading into The Spin Room, with Tucker Carlson and Bill Press, at 10:30 p.m.
One network source said the company has offered a new contract to Johnson, the CNN CEO, whose current deal expires at the end of the year.
CNN also said it signed a multiyear contract renewal with political analyst Jeff Greenfield, who will host a yet-to-be-named half-hour program at 6 p.m. International-news superstar Christiane Amanpour also signed a multi-year renewal. CNN said she will play an increased role in Web coverage and will research and report a series of hour-long programs for the network.
In addition to Street Sweep, hosted by Jan Hopkins and Terry Keenan, CNN cut business shows Movers
and Your Money
and Entrepreneurs Only
will be cut from the CNNfn schedule.
CNN also cut its Style
program, hosted by veteran Elsa Klensch. That slot will be given to Greenfield.
recently moved from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. and seems headed for eviction from the schedule. But CNN officials wouldn't comment last week on the fate of the program and those who staff it.
The company said it will build a "super desk" at its Atlanta headquarters, which will oversee its domestic, international and interactive operations. It will also add an investigative unit, which will be run by one correspondent and three producers.
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