The Insider

Apr 5, 2004  •  Post A Comment

The Insider must be losing it. She’s only now learned that the dreams to jazz up CNN Headline News on weeknights with a quiz show and a topical puppet news show (which one tongue-in-cheeky source described as an homage to “Spitting Image”) are dead. Do not insert own jokes about sitting talent here, readers: The Insider would be blamed.
Anyway, the night-lite ideas-the puppet news show a remainder of the Walter Isaacson-Garth Ancier days and the quiz show attributed to CNN News Group President Jim Walton-are buried. But the idea of creating programming that might help meet the goal of doubling the channel’s prime-time audience is not. A CNN source said that what CNN Headline News Executive VP Rolando Santos is exploring now are projects that would have less entertainment quotient than, say, “Larry King Live” and would fall more on the news side of the spectrum.
The Insider apologizes for delivering this news at the speed of candlelight and she promises to do better.
And, voila!, so she does with this note from the Woodley Lakes Golf Course in Van Nuys, Calif., where Steve Tello was playing a round two days after an affectionate sendoff by staffers and talent with whom he’d worked during his six years at Fox Sports Net, where he had been the senior VP of news.
Mr. Tello, who spent 13 years as a producer at ABC News, where his assignments included traveling the world with Peter Jennings, was playing with Bill Knowles, the former ABC bureau chief who hired Mr. Tello 20 years ago last week.
The Insider adores irony, whether it plays out along 18 holes or inside a news operation where an executive essentially reorganizes himself out of a job-under a business plan that started with intentions of trying to compete with ESPN nationally but then splintered into regional operations.
“No regrets. I had a good, hard run,” said Mr. Tello, who doesn’t plan to be spending his days on the links for long.
“I’ve got two kids in college.”
The next dream job? Something, perhaps in cable, that makes use of his history as a news producer (including 10 years in local TV news before joining ABC) and his experience on the business side, which he learned as president of Speer Communications after he left ABC.
Lane Venardos, who pretended four years ago to retire to a custom-built home in Maui, Hawaii, after three decades at CBS News, has been back on his old stomping grounds in New York for the past few weeks.
New York is where daughter Kelly is a well-established producer on “NBC Nightly News.” It’s also where son Kevin has been hanging his top hat for a month-he’s ringmaster of the 134th edition of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Mr. Venardos, a trainiac since childhood, has been riding the Ringling rails, sharing Kevin’s personal car, and he will wax ecstatic about the experience at the slightest provocation. He published a charming piece in the March issue of Trains Magazine. The article includes an incident in which Nestor, Kevin’s Jack Russell terrier-which Mr. Vendardos calls “the greatest dog imaginable”-brings the mile-long circus train to a screeching halt because he’s gotten tired of crossing his little legs and jumps off.
Mr. Venardos, who produced special-events coverage for much of his later years at CBS News, has been putting those talents to use on the live finales of CBS’s “Survivor” and will do the same when Mark Burnett’s other big hit, NBC’s “The Apprentice,” finishes its first run with a two-hour live broadcast Thursday, April 15.
To The Insider, it doesn’t sound like there’s nearly enough time spent on Maui in a home that has a lava-rock pool and spa in the back yard. House sitter available! Will work for transportation.
The recent Associated Press write-up on “Eyewitness Teen/Kids News,” as Al Primo has renamed his freshman weekly syndicated show, didn’t include what Mr. Primo said is the best news: The weekly half-hour featuring news about teens, delivered by teens (several of them sons and daughters of TV-star parents), has gotten a commitment for carriage by all 27 Hearst-Argyle TV stations. The most recent second-generation additions: Ben Cohen, the 14-year-old son of Meredith Vieira, the former CBS and ABC newswoman who now is the ringmistress on “The View,” and Richard Cohen, the former CBS News producer; and WNYW-TV anchor Rosanna Scotto’s 14-year-old daughter Jenna.