CNN ends broadcast agreement with GW a year early

CNN announced earlier this month it is ending its six-year contract with GW a year early because of programming changes.

“Reliable Sources” will no longer have its monthly, audience-interactive special taped in the Jack Morton Auditorium come February. Within the past two years, the 24-hour news network canceled the program’s two predecessors, which were also filmed in the Media and Public Affairs Building.

Due to continuing changes in programming, CNN no longer needs a regularly scheduled discussion show, network spokesperson Edie Emery said. Emery added that the network will be open to periodic projects with students in the future.

“We hope to continue to be able to work with the wonderful students at GW on editorial projects, but it is time for our use of the Jack Morton Auditorium to come to an end,” Emery said in a news release.

CNN broadcast live from Foggy Bottom two years ago with “Crossfire,” which was replaced by the weekly, taped program “On the Story.” A monthly special program of “Reliable Sources” – a weekly news analysis show hosted by Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz – filmed its only episode Oct. 6.

It is unknown whether that would be the only “Reliable Sources” taping in the Jack Morton Auditorium, GW Vice President for Communications Michael Freedman said. He said, the University is already negotiating with other prominent networks to replace the show that contributed to four classes.

“CNN has provided GW students with one of the most unique media opportunities ever offered on an American college campus,” Freedman said in a news release. “It has been an honor and a pleasure to engage in this unprecedented partnership and we look forward to welcoming CNN back to GW on an occasional basis in the future.”

Freedman said that although the CNN partnership contributed to students’ education, no classes at GW will suffer in its absence.

“I think it’s going to open more opportunities,” Freedman said in an interview last week. “There’s an old saying that as a door closes a window opens … and I tend to believe in that.”

He added that airing the shows in the Jack Morton Auditorium has benefited the University through more than 2,000 on-air mentions of GW during nearly 800 nationally televised programs.

Freedman said that although the financial arrangement between GW and CNN is confidential, it was “designed to be a break-even arrangement.” He said the monthly rent paid to GW was used for staffing and the logistical costs of the show’s production.

GW’s partnership with CNN, which is second only to Fox News in cable news network ratings, has contributed substantially to the University’s reputation. One reason the 2005 Kaplan/Newsweek college guide named GW the “hottest school for political junkies” was its affiliation with “Crossfire.” It was the first such partnership ever in higher education, Freedman said.

“Crossfire’s” cancellation was announced in January 2005 along with several other debate show cancellations in the CNN line-up in an effort to move toward more “hard news,” CNN President Jonathan Kline said at the time. The announcement came two months after comedian and “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart appeared on the weekday broadcast and criticized the program.

The show – which came to GW in 2002 after running for 21 years – was replaced by the once-weekly “On the Story” in July 2005. “On the Story,” an hour-long show which examined CNN reporters’ experiences in covering the week’s headlines, was canceled after only a year on-air.

Senior Jen Riedinger, who worked on both “Crossfire” and “On the Story,” said she believes any major network will be able to offer the learning opportunities of working on a show. “Crossfire” was an especially unique opportunity because it was live, she said.

“Crazy things pop up when guests don’t show up last minute and the producers have to put something together,” Riedinger said. “It was just a really, really cool experience to work on something like that.”

Riedinger agreed with Freedman that classes in the School of Media and Public Affairs won’t suffer because CNN is leaving.

“This is just something that a few students helped out with,” she said. “There are so many internships through SMPA.”

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