Zahn To Leave CNN

Paula Zahn confirmed Tuesday that she will leave CNN next week.

Zahn’s transition out of CNN was not a quiet one. She soldiered on while rumors circulated that her bosses were looking to replace her ratings-challenged 8 p.m. news show Paula Zahn Now.

On Monday, CNN confirmed a deal with former Weekend Today anchor Campbell Brown to front a new 8 p.m. interview show.

Zahn's last day on the air at CNN will be August 2.

“I’ve been in the business long enough to know that if you allow yourself to be drowned by the noise you’re not going to put on a very good television show,” said Zahn during a phone interview on Tuesday.

“Was it pleasant for everybody on my staff and me to go through? Absolutely not.”

Zahn said discussions with Jon Klein, president of CNN/U.S., about her future at the network began “months ago.”

In the end, she added, “we decided to pursue separate paths. And I think that was the right decision. It truly was a mutual decision.”

Her contract – which CNN will honor, according to sources – does not expire until the end of the year after which she is free to appear on a competing network.

Zahn said she is “looking at a number of different (television) opportunities,” but will “resist jumping into anything right away.”

Brown officially starts at CNN September 1, but the terms of her exit agreement with NBC preclude her from appearing on the air until November. (She is expecting her first child with husband Dan Senor, a Fox News analyst, in December.) CNN will employ a series of substitute hosts until Brown’s debut.

Zahn’s first day on the air at CNN came the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, six months ahead of her proposed start date. She moved from mornings to primetime in 2003 and eventually found herself in the unenviable position of competing against opinionated male hosts: MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, who dominates the 8 p.m. hour.

“The competition at 8 o'clock is the hardest in all of TV,” she said. “That’s something we had to confront day in and day out. But I’m proud of the work we did.”

Her recent series of town hall meetings about race in America was honored with a “best practice” award from the National Association of Black Journalists. 

She’ll host a 10-part PBS series on cancer this fall.