CNN’s Cheatwood Jumps to Fox News

Apr 5, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Joel Cheatwood, CNN’s executive director of program and talent development, is jumping to Fox News, where he will be VP of development for Fox News Channel and the Fox Business Channel.

Mr. Cheatwood will report to Roger Ailes, chairman of Fox News and Fox Television Stations, and to the top programming executives of the news channel and the business network, which is slated to launch this year. Mr. Ailes also is expected to consult Mr. Cheatwood on some station issues.

Mr. Cheatwood’s last day at CNN is officially April 15, but he is expected to take time off before then.”Joel has a strong reputation in the industry for his good ideas and the ability to execute them. He also possesses a wealth of experience he can share with us,” Mr. Ailes said in the announcement made Thursday, mere hours after CNN staffers were told Mr. Cheatwood had resigned his post as executive director of program and talent development.

Inside CNN, there is some sensitivity about the fact that Mr. Cheatwood leaves with knowledge of everything from plans for covering the 2008 election campaigns to the results of recent programming reviews and strategy.

“He knows everything. It’s an immense loss,” said an industry source familiar with Mr. Cheatwood’s role and accomplishments at CNN, including developing the CNN Headline News programs for Nancy Grace and Glenn Beck.

“There really aren’t any great secrets or surprises,” Mr. Cheatwood told TelevisionWeek Thursday afternoon. “I think when any executive leaves, there’s always kind of a twinge about what are they going to take with them, but the truth is I think the world knows where CNN is pretty much headed anyway.”

The news executive said his deal with Fox was “kind of an 11th-hour sort of whirlwind, I’m still letting it kind of sink in, so there hasn’t been a whole lot of thought going forward.”

“I know that one of the first priorities will be to assist Kevin Magee in any way I can to help program the business channel and then work with Bill Shine on developing different programs for different time periods that have potential on the Fox News Channel side,” he said.

Mr. Cheatwood agreed there is irony in him leaving CNN at the same time former Fox News anchor Kiran Chetry debuts as John Roberts’ co-anchor of CNN’s “American Morning,” saying, “The joke was that we were actually traded for each other.” He also agreed that his background and style (“great information with a level of entertainment value”) ought to make for a pretty good fit at Fox News

Mr. Cheatwood is a well-traveled news executive who built a reputation for taking local news into tabloid territory, with varying degrees of success. At Miami’s WSVN-TV, Mr. Cheatwood’s “if it bleeds, it leads” news philosophy turned the station around in the late 1980s, after it switched affiliations from NBC to Fox. He similarly boosted ratings at WSVN’s sister station WHDH-TV in Boston.

At NBC-owned WMAQ-TV in Chicago in the late ’90s, he created a furor when he hired Jerry Springer to do commentary.

For two years before joining CNN in 2002, Mr. Cheatwood was the top news executive for WCBS-TV (where he made many talent changes but little ratings improvement) and the CBS-owned stations.

(Editor: Horowitz)