News

Paula Zahn Confirms CNN Exit

Paula Zahn and “Paula Zahn Now” will sign off at CNN Thursday, Aug. 2.

It will be the end of six years at the news channel. She started at CNN only three days after leaving Fox News, kick-started by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Her first day on the air was Sept. 11, 2001, co-anchoring CNN's coverage of the attacks.

After some 30 years of vacations cut short by big breaking news and no chance to take a deep breath between assignments, Ms. Zahn, whose CNN contract was to expire at the end of the year, is going to have a few months to relax. Whatever that means. Beyond having “the luxury” of time to read a complete book, rather than chapters in rushed preparation for a show, Ms. Zahn told TelevisionWeek she has no idea how she will spend the next few months.

She said she and CNN/U.S. President Jon Klein had talked over options for several months but ultimately she didn’t find the options “interesting, because I’ve done all of them.”

“I wanted to move on and he wanted to move on,” Ms. Zahn said.

The internal announcement of Ms. Zahn’s exit Tuesday was the second of at least three shoes to drop after several months of speculation. CNN announced Monday that Campbell Brown had been recruited from NBC News to anchor a topical show, but Mr. Klein coyly refused to say just where Ms. Brown’s hour-long prime-time show will go when it debuts in November, a couple of months before she has her first baby.

Mr. Klein seemed to say in his e-mail to staffers Tuesday that it will be Ms. Zahn’s 8 o’clock time slot, up against the politically opposite Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann.

“Throughout the coming weeks, we will be utilizing substitute hosts at 8 p.m. leading up to the November launch of a new program anchored by Campbell Brown,” Mr. Klein said in the e-mail. “Additional details will be forthcoming,”

Those details will eventually have to address whether “Lou Dobbs Tonight” will move from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., and “The Situation Room” loses its bookends format and goes three back-to-back hours starting at 4 p.m.

Ms. Zahn, whose previous stops included ABC News, CBS News and Fox News, testifies to the challenge at 8 p.m., which she calls the toughest time slot in all of cable news.

“What we have discovered as we experimented with four or five different formats over the last four years with four [different] news presidents is that the audience seems to be drawn to opinion, and that’s not what I did,” she said. “We tried to counterprogram with a thoughtful hard news program that was objective.”

She said she takes pride that she produced a ratings increase of 23 percent over this time a year ago.

Ms. Zahn said she already has some opportunities for when she’s available after the first of the year.

(Editor: Romanelli)

Comments (7)

charley marley:

who cares! I watch wolfie and keith every night.

Blondie:

I care. I happen to know and like Paula Zahn. She's going through a divorce and has children. I hope she resurfaces somewhere.

Milo:

Ms Zahn has a fine mind and a good heart.
To be fair, one could imagine themselves
attempting to operate as a journalist
under all of the limitations that the
rhetorical "Network" imposes and demands.
Imagine *yourself* trying to practice even
a bit of journalism while being pressed
by manicured moguls to out-shout the
self righteous demagogues and psychic
vampires who inhabit the cable night!

Me:

Swapping Paula Zahn for Campbell Brown doesn't seem like a good plan to beat Bill O'Reilly

Milo:

Indeed, in that the cable micro-masses
clearly love buffoons like Grace and Beck
in addition to Boffo Bill and Meister
Uberman around that time slot, why the
beady-eyed suits at CNN haven't placed
the Right Honorable Reverend Lou (Dobbs)
square into the (legally sanctioned)
dogfighting is a bit of a mystery ...

Then they could force-feed Ms Brown
the same kind of fluffy jive that
CNN all too often appears to have
demanded that (the far more capable
than utilized) Ms Zahn waste her and
our time with. Hats off to the examples
of substantive issues that Ms Zahn *has*
managed to raise, despite this atmosphere!

EzeyE:

CABLE NEWS ANCHORS: Has anyone noticed that CNN has selected brunettes (women that is); and FOX & MSNBC goes for hot looking blondes (FOX also includes better legs)? That's the "Dirty Exec Demographics."

ted eker:

It is sad that she has left. The viewers will miss her. I turned on CNN especially to see her and to listen to her.
I certainly will not be watching CNN at 8 pm anymore.
I hope she gets a good job at a competing network so all her fans will have somewhere to go.
This is not the first time, CNN has moved good people out of there station.

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