Why Connie Chung Got the Hard News

Mar 31, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Connie Chung’s sudden exit shouldn’t affect Paula Zahn or Aaron Brown, the other news “stars” brought in by CNN’s former managers. The change isn’t about celebrity, any more than it was about ratings. Ms. Chung had the third-highest-rated show on the network and was a respectable second in her tough time period. It was a matter of style. New CNN topper Jim Walton believes hard news is the way to differentiate his network, and Ms. Chung’s crime-and-tabloid approach made him as uncomfortable as it made founder Ted Turner.
The timing in the middle of a war was questionable. Mr. Walton apparently was being pressed by Ms. Chung, who wanted off the sidelines, and he thought she would accept re-assignment. Instead, she took the position her $2 mil a year contract had been breached and she walked with more than a year left. Talks are under way to settle her contract, but CNN won’t be in a rush. Ms. Chung is known as someone who likes to work, which could give CNN leverage. One possibility is Fox News, which some say would delight in shoving her future success down CNN’s throat. Eventually look for either Ms. Zahn to move into prime time or for a new faster-paced news hour, based in New York, with a younger anchor. One candidate: Anderson Cooper, son of New York socialite Gloria Vanderbilt, who came to CNN after doing documentaries for Channel One, reporting for ABC News and hosting the first edition of The Mole.