Cable News Network

The original all-news station, CNN proved the commercial viability of broadcasting to a niche market.

The Cable News Network (CNN) was the brainchild of Atlanta, Georgia, media mogul Ted Turner, TedTurner. Turner had already created one of the first cable Television;cable networkstelevision superstations, transmitting the signal of local independent television station WTCG to a communications satellite and selling the resulting feed to cable companies across the nation. He saw in the growth of cable the possibility of a market for more specialized stations.Cable News Network

At the time, the model of the generalist station, broadcasting a mix of different types of programming, remained so strong that few expected CNN to succeed when it was launched on June 1, 1980. However, it was successful enough that two years later Turner launched CNN Headline News, which specialized in thirty-minute news summaries rather than the more in-depth coverage that was found on CNN.

Another innovation pioneered by CNN was the open newsroom, in which there was no backdrop set behind the anchor desk. Instead, viewers could look beyond the news anchors to see reporters at their desks, preparing news stories. This innovation was copied in 1982 by the Weather Channel, and as MSNBC, CNBC, and FOX News Channel each entered the twenty-four-hour news niche, they too arranged their sets to allow viewers to see the newsroom at work.

Although CNN was somewhat successful throughout the 1980’s, it was the 1991 Gulf War that brought it to prominence. As a result of a combination of factors, CNN was the first channel to be able to provide live reports of the air war directly from Baghdad. Correspondents such as Bernard Shaw and Peter Arnett soon became household names, and CNN became the go-to channel for people seeking world news reports. Because CNN provided twenty-four-hour newscasts without other programming, the news was always available whenever someone wanted to tune in.

The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks proved another scoop for CNN, which aired a report, complete with an image of the north tower of the World Trade Center on fire, minutes after it was struck. For the next two days, CNN ran continual news coverage, sacrificing millions of dollars of advertising revenue to bring the latest developments as they happened. To present repetitious bits of information while covering ongoing developments, CNN pioneered the news ticker, a constant crawl of textual information across the bottom of the screen similar to stock-ticker crawls on business channels.

Since 1995, CNN has maintained a presence on the World Wide Web. During particularly important breaking news events, traffic to the site can become so heavy that it exceeds the servers’ capabilities.

Further Reading

  • Pike, Sidney. We Changed the World: Memoirs of a CNN Satellite Pioneer. St. Paul, Minn.: Paragon House, 2005.
  • Schonfeld, Reese. Me and Ted Against the World: The Unauthorized Story of the Founding of CNN. New York: Cliff Street, 2001.
  • Whittemore, Hank. CNN: The Inside Story. Boston: Little, Brown, 1990.



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