This story was originally posted on May 22, 2014 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Atlanta’s CNN has been losing its pull to New York for years with most of its big stars based there already. (And a few in D.C. like Wolf Blitzer.)
In fact, it’s no longer fair to even call CNN Atlanta headquarters in many ways, even though about half its employees still work here.
The power base in terms of the thought leaders and decision makers has shifted almost completely to New York. Jeff Zucker’s arrival as president last year has only hastened the inevitable.
The final nail in the coffin? Brooke Baldwin and Carol Costello, the two hosts who still have weekday shows based out of Atlanta are moving to New York in August, TVNewser reported today. [UPDATE on January 30, 2017: Costello, for personal reasons, is moving to HLN in Los Angeles from New York. Details here.]
While several shows are still produced out of Atlanta, the key talent won’t be.
Don Lemon, a rising star and weekend anchor, moved to New York last year after a long stint in Atlanta.
HLN leadership has also shifted to New York and rumors have been that Zucker wants Robin Meade moved to New York. She has reportedly resisted.
An insider wrote me: “Sad, sad, sad day at CNN HQ or should we call it the Atlanta bureau?”
The person said the Atlanta producers keep coming up with show ideas that Zucker hates. Plus, “we can’t find any talent who wants to come to CNN. We had the same issues with the morning show. No one wanted to come because we scrap things after a year. Every talent agency we contact can’t get us anyone… even talent from larger local markets refuse to come here because they are afraid.”
A lot of the back-office operations (cnn.com, CNN International, et. al) will remain in Atlanta for the near future because it’s still cheaper to operate down here than in New York. And Time Warner (CNN’s overlord based in New York) has a lot of built-in investment at CNN Center.
CNN released a statement which included, in part: “Atlanta is, and always will be, a critical part of CNN Worldwide’s operations. It remains home to much of our programming and content, including the production for many of our shows, CNN’s worldwide newsgathering operations, CNN Digital, CNN International, CNN en Espanol, HLN and Newsource.”
When founder Ted Turner sold CNN to Time Warner two decades ago, I wonder if he figured this day would come.
In defense of CNN, New York is the center of the universe for media. It’s where Fox News, The Today Show, The Tonight Show, Letterman, Good Morning America, et. al are based. Most advertising chiefs still work out of New York decades after “Mad Men.” As long as Zucker, a New Yorker at heart, stays at the helm, Atlanta will become increasingly less important for CNN.