The co-founder of CNN offers a behind-the-scenes account of the tumultuous launch of the world's first twenty-four-hour, all-news network.
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Reese Schonfeld cofounded the Cable News Network in 1980; CNN Headline News in 1981; News 12, the first all-local news channel, in 1985; and the Food Network in 1993. All four networks survived and thrived. He served as CEO and president of CNN and of the Food Network.From Publishers Weekly:
"CNN is my invention," proclaims Schonfeld at the outset of this entertaining, vindictive memoir of founding the world's first 24-hour news network with media mogul Ted Turner in 1979. A longtime TV and print journalist, Schonfeld was president for three years until he was fired by Turner after a clash of egos and largely forgotten within CNN's institutional memory. This book is his opportunity to set the record straight, tell some great anecdotes and (not least) settle a few old scores. Schonfeld maintains that as it hit the airwaves on June 1, 1980, CNN was largely his creation: he devised its revolutionary "fluid news" style and assembled the initial staff (largely by raiding other networks: "Will the last one leaving for CNN turn out the lights?" became the mantra at CBS). With only a shoestring budget, Schonfeld used creative methods to scoop the competition--for example, smuggling tape out of Solidarity-era Poland wrapped around a cameraman's legs. He also managed to get lucky with talented unknowns like Katie Couric, Peter Arnett and Bernard Shaw (although Schonfeld also went after big guns like Orson Welles, whom he wanted as cohost for Crossfire). Best of all, Schonfeld says, Turner made appearances mostly just to raise hell and stir up the troops. CNN was going strong right up to the moment when Turner fired him; afterwards, Schonfeld maintains, it lost the brash, upstart approach that ensured its early ratings, and it turned into just another network. Sour grapes? Perhaps. One side of the story? Without a doubt. But it's wrapped in a fantastic package and loaded with humor, insight and dish on everyone from Turner down. (Feb. 6)Forecast: Bound to be one of the most controversial, and talked-about, media books of the year, Schonfeld's bold tell-all should attract major media on his three-city author tour.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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