Major staff changes are expected to result in programming changes in what’s been called the biggest shake-up in CNN’s 20-year history. Rick Kaplan, president of CNN/U.S., was conspicuously absent from the new executive flow chart presented to CNN staffers in a memo issued late August. The re-organization sees Philip Kent (former president, Turner Broadcasting Systems International), assume the newly created role of president and coo of the CNN News Group. Eason Jordan was named president of newsgathering and chief news exec, overseeing CNN Newsource and CNN’s features unit. Jim Walton accepted the new post of president CNN Networks/USA while Chris Cramer was named president of CNN Networks/ International.
CNN has felt the strain of new competition from outlets such as Fox News Channel and MSNBC in the form of significantly shrunken ratings. When Kaplan arrived three years ago from ABC News, he brought with him more polished production values evident in programs such as NewsStand, which premiered in 1998. With his departure, it’s thought the network will return to grittier programming and focus on stories with broad audience appeal.
‘I have no interest in telling obscure stories,’ remarks Vivian Schiller, executive VP, CNN Productions, commenting on how the speculated changes might affect CNN’s doc activities. ‘I’m interested in getting an audience for documentaries. I’m quite conscious of creating programming that has broad audience appeal.’
Schiller points out that reporting structures have yet to be sorted out, but states that a new strategy for docs is in the works, to be revealed in the next few months. ‘This pre-dates the AOL/Time Warner merger and certainly events of the past week,’ she says. According to Schiller, the Internet will play a role in the new strategy, echoing statements CNN execs gave the press acknowledging that CNN needs to be more heavily promoted in other media, namely the Web. Kimberley Brown