CNN Analysis

CNN (Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The story of Cable News Network’s creation and early days is as fast-paced as the network’s all-news format. Whittemore begins the story in 1978, when Ted Turner called Reese Schonfeld, who then worked for a television news syndicate. Turner had been thinking about an all-news cable network, and he asked Schonfeld, a seasoned newsman, if it was feasible. Schonfeld thought it was, and he jumped at the opportunity to become CNN’s founding president.

Turner, at the time, knew nothing about journalism, but he and Schonfeld hired the best people they could find--or at least that they could afford. From there the story takes off. Whittemore explores the development of CNN’s unique format--to “go live” whenever possible, to give viewers raw information so they can interpret the news for themselves. He chronicles the struggle to survive in the face of competition from the big three networks, lawsuits, and personnel shakeups. He traces the origin and development of CNN Headline News.

Whittemore interviewed more than seventy-five people in researching the book, many of them CNN employees or former employees. He lets them do much of the storytelling, interspersing their comments and memories in his fast-moving narrative.

The book covers a lot of ground. It is the story of a start up business. It is a story of the cable TV industry. It is the story of a revolution in broadcast journalism. And it is the story of Ted Turner, the entrepreneur. The hectic early days of CNN may seem romanticized in the rosy memories of former employees, but the unlikely success of Turner’s all-news network makes a fascinating and entertaining story.