NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- CNN, which has long insisted that its middle-of-the-road objective journalism would sustain it even as rival cable-news outlets have grown increasingly partisan, looks as if it's trying to add some flash to its daily report.
The Time Warner network, which has been beset for months by declining ratings , today said it was parting ways with Jon Klein, who has overseen the network's U.S. operations since November of 2004.
Mr. Klein, a news veteran with previous experience at CBS News, raised some eyebrows when he canceled CNN's long-running "Crossfire" debate program in 2005 after the program was attacked by satirist and Comedy Central host Jon Stewart, who dismissed the program as nothing more than "partisan hackery."
But CNN had recently appeared to be changing its steps somewhat. The network recently unveiled a new "Crossfire"-like program featuring Eliot Spitzer, the disgraced former New York governor. And it has unveiled plans to bring in Piers Morgan, a TV host with a reputation for being colorful, to take over for the soon-to-depart Larry King.
Overseeing these operations and others will be Ken Jautz, a longtime CNN executive who has recently supervised HLN, a sibling cable channel that is decidedly less serious about how it presents news. In 2006, Mr. Jautz gave Glenn Beck, then a radio host without a TV presence, a program on HLN that catapulted Mr. Beck toward stardom. Under Mr. Jautz's aegis, HLN also introduced programs such as "Nancy Grace," "Joy Behar," "ShowBiz Tonight," "Issues with Jane Velez Mitchell" and "Morning Express With Robin Meade." Mr. Jautz will be exec VP of CNN's U.S. operations.
Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide, called the moves a "change in the way we do business at CNN" during a conference call with reporters.
In a memo to staffers, however, Mr. Walton said that the channel would not back away from presenting the news straight. Ongoing coverage, said Mr. Walton, "will reflect the qualities that CNN is rightfully famous for: commitment to truth, respect for facts, service to no political agenda and passion for journalism and analysis done right and well."
In a move that would seem to bolster this mission, Mr. Walton today said he would install an exec VP-managing editor at CNN Worldwide with a mandate "to shape and connect our newsgathering across networks, shows, and websites."
"Ultimately, the goal is that the kind of front-page reporting and analysis that captures a news event, translates its meaning and shapes the dialogue about the story will continue to emerge in even more prominent and more accessible ways to CNN's audiences," he said. A search for an executive to fill the role, a new one at CNN, is in progress.
As part of its shakeup, CNN named Scot Safon, a longtime marketing executive at Time Warner's Turner cable unit, to run HLN as exec VP. Mr. Safon had been chief marketing officer of CNN Worldwide.