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Friday, April 24, 2009

The First 100 Days and NAB 2009

Time published a photo essay for the President's first 100 Days with a behind the scenes photo essay. Above are two photos that caught my eye. The first is a seating chart from a correspondents luncheon. In attendance at the luncheon were two anchors from CNN: Wolf Blitzer and John King. The second is the result of a few "no blackberry zones" within the White House. Can you imagine the anxiety of those that have to give up their communication devices?

A few highlights from NAB 2009:

First, RTNDA has posted the Insiders’ Look at Washington session that was moderated by John King.

Next, David Bohrman spoke with Broadcasting and Cable:

You are going to be presenting at the NAB Show in Las Vegas next week, can you talk about what you will be discussing there?

I am going to really focus on politics and innovation, and a little bit of evolution of that over the last 50 years. I have some interesting clips going back, from ‘56 and 1960, and there are clear echoes in some of the coverage we did in 2008.

I just looked back at the clip of Douglas Edwards and Univac predicting the 1956 election, and trying to explain how computers work to viewers. Match that up against our Magic Wall with John King, and the level of production and graphics and all the things we have learned over the years and the boundaries we have pushed.

Our first toe into the water with this was in 2004, when I pushed to do the election coverage at the NASDAQ, where we had 72 screens. Visually, it looked very much like 1956 or ‘60, where back then they had a wall of vote boards, and they were fixed-this one was the West, this square was California, there were numbers that were changing but there was no flexibility in it. So we took this idea of a big expansive wall of votes, and brought it to the floor of the NASDAQ, where you had electronic screens, but at the snap of your finger that would also become several live video streams and exit poll graphics.

That sort of environmental graphic look really lead to The Situation Room. It has sort of begun to change daytime cable-very different than a traditional evening newscast with an anchor and a full screen graphic. Then we went with that in 2006 and 2008, where we have multiple vote board and pie charts on the walls, and interactive data, and John King drilling into Indiana, explaining why we are unable to project it while our competitors have, and here is why. The tools have allowed us to be clearer and better.

Which of the technologies that you used during the election got the best reception?

I think the wall with John King. It is a little odd that we call it the "Magic Wall," but that is what it is called. It is one piece of technology that doesn't intimidate or get in the way of what you are trying to explain, whether it is showing Google Earth on a map or county-by-county votes. It was probably the key and most important technology.


How do you think John King has been doing on his new Sunday show?

I think he has been doing great. It is very early in the genesis of the program. I have created a lot of programs over the last 30 years, and I think it is off to a great start. There are some things I know I want to tinker with. Michelle Jaconi, who is the executive producer, has really leapt into it, has very quickly figured out the systems at CNN. And the program is beginning to have a voice that is clearly John's, with a little bit of Michelle mixed in.

I have a list of things I would like to see it do and evolve, but I think it is the program to watch on Sunday mornings, and as we evolve it more and more it will become irresistible.

One of the things I remember from my 13 years at ABC was that Roone Arledge wanted to own Sunday morning, to create the Sunday morning newsmagazine newspaper that modulated and had the biggest guests and interesting stories. I think State of the Union has all the makings of that.

I know he continues to use the Magic Wall on the show. Will we be seeing more tech on the show going forward?

John was very skeptical of the wall, but it just became an extension of his brain. Whether he has the chairman of the joint chiefs or General Odierno [commander of the multinational force in Iraq], you can use those tools and have some of the guests come on and illustrate things and explain their perspective and point of view. It is one of the signature aspects of the program, but it would be a mistake to think it revolves around the wall. It revolves around John; he has a lot of depth and a lot of abilities.

What does CNN have planned for Barack Obama's 100th day in office?

We promised that we would keep them honest, and we will take a look, big stock, at what everyone has been doing-the president, the administration, how congress is doing, how everyone who got elected is doing. Did they live up to their promise? Did they do what they said? What haven't they done? Basically, it will be a report card on how they are doing.

I think it is important for us to keep reminding the viewers of what people promised to do, and reminding elected officials what they said they would do, and then it is our job to keep track and let viewers make decisions. I think it is part of the core of our responsibility to check up on those guys and see how they are doing.

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