Updated Thursday, May 19, 7:32 p.m.
Months after its cancellation was announced, CNN’s “Crossfire,” which has broadcasted from the Jack Morton Auditorium for three years, will end its 23-year run with its final show June 3, a Friday.
Michael Freedman, GW’s vice president for communications, said Thursday night that he remains “absolutely confident” that CNN’s relationship with GW would continue in the form of another show.
“I don’t see this as the end of anything besides the end of ‘Crossfire’ at GW,” Freedman said, adding that he learned of the cancellation Thursday afternoon.
Freedman said he could not provide further details about any future arrangements because he is still waiting to hear from CNN about its programming changes. He also said “editorial decision-making lies solely with CNN,” but pointed out that the network has been open to input from members of the GW community.
“We’re a small cog in CNN’s big wheel. CNN has to decide first how it wants to develop its schedule and then secondarily how GW fits into that wheel,” Freedman explained.
In an undated memo provided to The Hatchet earlier this month, CNN President Jonathan Klein said the network will discontinue the last hour of “Live From,” as well as the entirety of “Wolf Blitzer Reports” and “Inside Politics” – the program GW originally hoped would replace “Crossfire.”
In place of those shows, CNN will broadcast a three-hour block of programming from 3 to 6 p.m. to be hosted by Blitzer. The change will take place some time this summer. Freedman declined to comment on the prospect of the new Blitzer show being hosted by GW.
“I think a lot of people agreed with Jonathan Klein’s comments (in January) that it would be good to have more rational, substantive dialogue on television,” Freedman said, noting that several media outlets, including The Hatchet, called for “Crossfire’s” end. “He talked about the need to ratchet down the volume of the rhetoric.”
After Klein announced the cancellation of “Crossfire” in January, Freedman said CNN planned on bringing “Inside Politics” to GW to replace the outgoing debate show. But questions about the future of “Inside Politics” arose in April when Judy Woodruff, the show’s anchor, announced she would leave the show when her contract expires in June.
The date of “Crossfire’s” last broadcast had been a source of speculation since Klein announced its cancellation in January. Later that month, CNN producer Sam Feist told By George! magazine the show would be off the air by February or March. Freedman told The Hatchet in January that the show could last through the end of the semester. Earlier this month, CNN and University officials would not confirm a Philadelphia Inquirer column that said “Crossfire” would air its last show June 3.
It is unclear if the new block of programming will call GW home. Blitzer has a relationship with the University, having spoken here several times over the last few years. In 2001, he delivered the keynote address at the grand opening of the School of Media and Public Affairs building. He is friendly with University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg and other senior GW officials and attends men’s basketball games.
“It’s less about friendships than it is about the rebuilding of CNN but its management team now headed by Jonathan Klein, who has a responsibility to keep CNN in a leadership position among electronic media forces out there,” Freedman said.
Freedman said CNN continues to pay rent on the Jack Morton Auditorium even though it is “on hiatus” from regularly broadcasting from there. Last week, CNN’s Spanish affiliate aired a show from the SMPA building featuring the presidents of six Central American countries.
“I think it’s a very positive sign that CNN is going to continue this relationship with GW in terms of keeping a priority on the (Jack) Morton Auditorium and to continue to work with us as this new programming is developed,” Freedman said. “I think we’re going to come out of this just fine.”
The Jack Morton Auditorium might have a chance to play host to a show on another network. Freedman said that while GW is not actively shopping the venue to other networks besides CNN, it would consider offers.
“We would like to continue regularly scheduled programming within the Jack Morton Auditorium,” Freedman said. “We will continue to discuss those prospects with others who would be interested.”
But if GW fails to land another show, it would lose a valuable recruiting tool. One reason the 2005 Kaplan/Newsweek college guide named GW the “hottest school for political junkies is the school’s affiliation with “Crossfire.” More than 200 students have worked on the show during its tenure at GW.
Heather Clapp Date, the show’s coordinating producer, said she is “enormously thankful” to all of the students who have volunteered, interned and worked in other capacities on the show, as well as to all of “Crossfire’s” audience members.
She pointed out that the show still has two weeks on the air and encouraged people to seize their “last chance to see a show that’s been on for 20 years.”
People interested in requesting tickets to “Crossfire” can call 202-994-8CNN.
Michael Barnett contributed to this report.