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The Insider

Jul 9, 2001  •  Post A Comment

CNN chairman’s farewells further off
The going-away party for Tom Johnson, who recently left CNN’s public relations machine spinning its wheels with his abrupt declaration he was resigning after more than a decade as chairman of the all-news channel, has been pushed back from this week to late August. After hearing that founding anchor Bernard Shaw received gardening tools when he retired last winter, that Supreme Court correspondent Charles Bierbauer exited with a photo of himself in front of the White House (his previous beat) and that former uber-booker Gail Evans took off with the gift of two round-the-world air tickets, The Insider is glad to hear the official gift-givers have been given more time to shop for Mr. Johnson.
And speaking of Mr. Johnson’s exit, one of the most intriguing questions these days is to whom does “Larry King Live” report now? The show was singled out during last year’s management restructuring as reporting directly to Mr. Johnson.
What burned bridges?
Meanwhile, keeping up with the other behind-the-scenes scene at CNN leaves The Insider feeling breathless and dizzy. It’s hard to know where to even begin.
Would it be with the sighting last week at CNN’s Atlanta headquarters of, gasp! David Bohrman, the former CNNfn executive vice president who lost a power struggle that lasted the whole summer after the exit of Lou Dobbs and left CNN under escort and in a wave of New York tabloid headlines in August 1999?
The conventional wisdom is that Aaron Brown, the former ABC Newsman around whom CNN wants to develop a signature prime-time news show by fall, has, from the get-go, wanted Mr. Bohrman to run his show. The official stance is that Mr. Bohrman is one of several candidates.
Jamie Kellner, the uber-executive who is determined to liven up CNN, which has heretofore prided itself on being the eat-your-vegetables entry in the 24-hour news race, has said he first spied Mr. Brown in the early `90s, when Mr. Kellner was an insomniac and Mr. Brown was co-anchoring “World News Now” in the middle of the night on ABC.
The combo of Mr. Brown, who played George Burns to Lisa McRee’s Gracie Allen, and Mr. Bohrman as executive producer produced a wry, sometimes wacky but always engaging newscast that made sleep disturbances worth suffering. The newscast had a beer-hall-style theme-the “World News Polka,” courtesy of jokey accordionist Barry Mitchell-a mysterious temperature index and novel ways of dealing with the absence of a co-anchor: a life-sized cardboard cutout filling their chair for the duration, among other things.
After CNNfn, Mr. Bohrman was hired to retool Pseudo.com in a doomed attempt to turn the entrepreneur’s online-TV plaything into a business. Last summer, Mr. Bohrman had to pull the plug on Pseudo plans to Webcast a 360-degree look at the presidential nominating conventions. In September, Pseudo filed for bankruptcy protection. Last January, INTV bought what was left for some $2 million. Most recently, Mr. Bohrman is said to have been consulting for TechTV, the 24-hour Vulcan Ventures-owned cable channel devoted to technology information, news and entertainment.
All The Insider can say is that she’s sure the business reporters at New York’s tabloids will cheer the reunion of CNN’s two prodigal sons, Mr. Dobbs and Mr. Bohrman, if the latter finds his way back into the news channel’s New York operations via Mr. Brown.
Musical deputies in D.C.
And then there are the shenanigans at CNN’s Washington office. Bureau chief Frank Sesno lost one deputy bureau chief, Nancy Ambrose, and is thought to be giving serious consideration to replacing her with Katherine Kross, who took the recent buyout offer at ABC News.
The Insider had to grab a hanky upon reading the warm, personal farewell quote from Mr. Sesno: “I am grateful to Nancy for her tireless work and complete dedication to CNN and all of us here at the D.C. bureau. Her intelligence and integrity, coupled with a keen knowledge of Capitol Hill, helped make our political coverage even better than it was. We all wish her all the best as she launches the next chapter of her professional life.”
The final word
It’s not quite an evil twin, but look for a “bad” nephew to strike on The WB’s “Gilmore Girls” next season. To intensify the romantic tension between single mom Lorelai Gilmore (played by Lauren Graham) and local coffee shop owner Luke Danes (Scott Patterson), series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino said she plans to throw in a new element that could break up their friendship: a “mischievous” nephew who manages to “complicate” things when he works at Uncle Luke’s coffee shop.
“All I can really say is that he is going to drive a wedge between them, to the point where Lorelai thinks of getting a pit bull to take care of the kid,” Ms. Sherman-Palladino added with a laugh. Someone should advise Lorelai to make sure nothing more than sugar is added to her coffee.