CNN Turns 30, Quietly and Without Fanfare
By Marc Schneider Posted Jun 1st 2010 01:16PM
Ted Turner's ambitious Cable News Network aired its first broadcast on June 1, 1980, with a report by co-anchors David Walker and Lois Hart. In 2000, the network threw a huge party to celebrate its 20th birthday, but this time the network is passing the day without much fanfare.
Why so low-key? With viewers craving pundits and blowhards telling them exactly what they want to hear, the straight news-minded CNN has stuck to its guns -- you know, the news -- and lost.
Nonpartisan news reporting has gone the way of the Dodo. Ratings have plunged to new lows this year, with CNN's main hosts, Larry King and Anderson Cooper, shedding nearly half their audiences, according the New York Times.
The exodus of viewers has even cost the network one of its rising stars, Campbell Brown, who announced May 18 that "not enough people want to watch my program, and I owe it to myself and to CNN to get out of the way so that they can try something else."
The 24-hour news channel was a first on television, and for 16 years -- until the emergence of FOX News and MSNBC in 1996 -- it had a monopoly on the genre. In its heyday, viewers were glued to CNN for stories like the first Gulf War, major elections, the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger and, of course, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The network's ratings are bound to improve, but even if they don't, the network's founder promised its survival.
Speaking just before the network's launch, Turner promised, "We won't be signing off until the world ends. We'll be on, and we will cover the end of the world, live, and that will be our last event ... and when the end of the world comes, we'll play 'Nearer My God to Thee' before we sign off."
Inside the company, CNN president Jim Walton announced today that employees will be giving back with a program called Give 30 for 30. Every eligible staffer will be able to give a company-paid donation of $30 to a charity of his or her choice.
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