They were the odd couple of broadcast news, destined to alter global communications forever -- to free-for-all of a saga that's larger than life and more engaging than a major business book has any right to be.
1979. Down in Atlanta, Ted Turner was fighting his battles with the networks. Up in New York, Reese Schonfeld was warring with the network journalists. Then they joined forces in a magnificent experiment and, for the next three years, stood shoulder to shoulder and back to back -- until the allies became antagonists, and the unraveling of CNN began.
Turner was cable before cable was cool. Schonfeld was in the TV news business before there was a TV news business was tile best advertising salesman TV has ever known. Schonfeld had invented the first independent news agency that worked. Turner got cable companies to put CNN -- thefirst twenty-four-hour news network -- on the air. Schonfeld got newsmen to bet their lives on CNN. Turner brought in the money. Schonfeld brought in the news. Turner had been thrown out of Brown, Schonfeld, out of Harvard Law. Neither could tolerate authority. Both were control freaks. CNN was their baby.
1982. With CNN's ratings at an all-time high. Turner fired Schonfeld and gained control of CNN. Now it was totally his baby. Schonfeld went oil to, create News 12 and the Food Network. Ted went on to create TNT, the Cartoon Network, and Turner Movie Classics: become a legend; and sell his empire to Time Warner.
2000. Now Ted looks at news from the outside. Schonfeld plays one more long shot, trying to get back in. CNN is Time Warner's now. In the beginning, it was me and Ted against the world, but has the world finally won?
Me and Ted Against the World recounts tile no-holds-barred triumphs of CNN's beginnings, the tribulations of its middle age, and the tragedy of its current moment in the wake of Time Warner's projected sale to AOL. As broadly entertaining as it is enlightening about the brave universe of telecommunications and crammed with unforgettable characters and highly revealing anecdotes, Me and Ted Against the World is eye-opening in every sense of the word.
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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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