CNN moves to campus

CNN’s “Crossfire” will call GW home beginning April 1, when the political talk show will begin broadcasting daily from the Media and Public Affairs building, GW announced Wednesday.

Vice President for Communication Mike Freedman said University and CNN officials signed a contract Tuesday night that is renewable for up to six years. The deal will give CNN use of the MPA Jack Morton Auditorium for about four hours Monday through Friday throughout the year.

Besides having a new home, the show has a new look and length. CNN announced Wednesday that the network will add an extra half hour to “Crossfire” and replace six-year host Bill Press with democratic political strategists James Carville and Paul Begala.

The show will now be an hour long, beginning at 7 p.m. instead of 7:30, and Press will work for CNN as a contributor, according to CNN.

Freedman said the move took more than a “single phone call” and is “the result of years of nurturing a very good relationship between the two entities.”

Freedman said last Friday the two sides were “talking” about moving “Crossfire” to campus, but that he had no idea when, or if, an agreement would be reached. By Wednesday GW had posted a news alert on its Web site that the deal was signed.

“Crossfire” has been broadcast from GW’s campus on six different occasions since 1993, bringing guests such as Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Freedman said two weeks of “Crossfire” broadcasts from campus following Sept. 11 were an “audition” for the University, and the shows went very well.

“It was quite an extraordinary couple of weeks, and it proved somewhat therapeutic for our campus,” he said. “No other university had that opportunity or seized the moment to thrust itself into a global spotlight.”

Besides “Crossfire,” GW has other connections with CNN, including talk show host Larry King, who donated $1 million to the School of Media and Public Affairs, and former “Late Edition” panelist Steve Roberts, who is now a Shapiro Professor of Media and Public Affairs at GW.

CNN will give the University an undisclosed amount of money for additional lighting and wiring and to pay a ticketing, marketing and support staff, Freedman said. Freedman said he was pleased with the sum but declined to say how much CNN will pay.

Freedman said GW will receive other benefits, like student internships, which “Crossfire” Senior Executive Producer Sam Feist said will provide the core staff of the show.

“We will be dependent on students to help us put this on the air,” Feist said. Feist said CNN will need interns to help with ticketing, guests, security, production and research for the weekday “Crossfire” broadcasts.

Most of the positions will be unpaid, Feist said.

The show will also help the University attract and retain students and faculty, Freedman said. He said students and parents at Colonial Inauguration will get a chance to attend the show, which will be broadcast from GW year-round including summers.

During summer and breaks, Freedman said the University will rely on tourists and local residents to fill the seats. He said the staff will call local tourist organizations to attract people during the breaks.

CNN officials said they chose GW because of the atmosphere, student body and because of the past successes of “Crossfire” on campus.

“It worked well in the fall; it’s a natural fit,” Feist said. He said CNN did not look at any other locations to move the show out of the CNN studio on First Street.

CNN spokeswoman Ali Weisberg said the network likes GW because it is a “prestigious Washington-area university.”

Feist also said GW provides ideal audiences.

“A live audience can turn a good political talk show into a great political talk show,” he said. “It adds an electricity that you don’t have in a studio. This is not just an auditorium we’re getting; it’s a student body interested in what we’re doing.”

Student Association President Roger Kapoor said students were responsible for bringing the show to campus.

“I know it’s a direct result of the students,” he said. “The students here are extremely intelligent and foster and environment that any TV show would be looking for.”

The show is not currently taped in front of an audience.
Freedman said students will get priority for “Crossfire” tickets and that the University will create an “e-ticket” system similar to airlines in which students can reserve spots in advance.

Feist said CNN is building a movable set that can be taken away when GW needs the auditorium for other purposes. Freedman said once the “rough edges are smoothed” taping the show will require a block of time between 4:30 and 8:00 p.m.

Senior Leigh Roderick said she was not worried about a scheduling conflict.

“If it’s in the Media and Public Affairs building, there’s still Lisner,” she said about space for events on campus.

Students said they liked the idea of “Crossfire” coming to campus.

Roderick, who said she had attended and enjoyed broadcasts of the show from GW before, said she thought the show would bring publicity to the University.

“We’re going to be the center of an awful lot of attention now, and students, particularly students who attend SMPA, are going to have an extraordinary opportunity,” Freedman said.

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