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Issacson: Reporter exits just ebb and flow

Cable News Network chairman Walter Issacson downplayed the recent departures
of a number of veteran correspondents and emphasized that the network is not
embroiled in any mass exodus.

He said CNN had just a 1 percent turnover within its correspondent ranks this
year, far lower than other recent years.

"It's not a zero-sum game. Some people stay, some
people go," Isaacson said Monday at the Television Critics
Association tour in Los Angeles, adding that he's been "somewhat baffled" by the number
of stories surrounding the departure of reporters like Washington, D.C., correspondent
Brooks Jackson, business-news reporter Allan Dodds Frank and Miami-based Mark Potter.

He noted that CNN just brought on contributor Mike Brooks as an investigative
reporter and added several broadcast veterans, including Suzanne Malvoux from
NBC News, in the past year.

The departures are part of a "natural ebb and flow. You can't say this is an
organization moving away from hiring smart journalists," general manager Teya
Ryan added.

The future of another big CNN talent, though -- Los Angeles-based Willow Bay,
who is married to The Walt Disney Co. chairman Bob Iger -- is still being
discussed, Ryan said.

As for CNN's mating dance with ABC News, Isaacson said he still doesn't know
if any proposed merger will come to fruition.

He added that he favors the idea, which could "protect good journalism for
the next 20 or 30 years."

Isaacson forecasted that over the next several months, discussions will
continue between executives from Disney and AOL Time Warner Inc. The structure
he said he would prefer would involve spinning off an independent news
organization "that had its own editorial integrity" and would be in "some way
separate from any of the corporations."

Of course, a potential downside of a star-studded CNN/ABC News organization,
Isaacson added, could be deciding which correspondents -- from CNN's Larry King to
ABC's Diane Sawyer and Barbara Walters -- get which plum stories.

Meanwhile, CNN executives
said they are continuing to prepare for a possible war
in Iraq, with more than 100 staffers currently in the region.

Isaacson and CNN newsgathering chief Eason Jordan recently met with U.S.
military officials in the region to discuss ways to embed journalists with

And CNN has stepped up its training for its staffers, including
training to prepare them for war zones and chemical and biological

Jordan said CNN is also investing in new technologies and equipment,
including new upgraded videophones.

CNN executives didn't have much to say about rival Fox
News Channel, which beat out CNN in prime-time ratings for all of 2002.

But Isaacson did take a chance to reiterate his desire for CNN to stick to
good journalism and leave the "shouting and opinion" to