Founder talks about starting CNN, which launched June 1, 1980
On June 1, 1980, Ted Turner and his 25-person team launched Cable News Network, a 24-hour channel offering straightforward news on America's cable systems.
Turner, nicknamed "the Mouth of the South," was his usual reticent self at the launch, declaring:
"We won't be signing off until the world ends. We'll be on, and we will cover the end of the world, live, and that will be our last event … and when the end of the world comes, we'll play 'Nearer, My God, to Thee' before we sign off," referring to the final song played as the Titanic sank.
Husband-and-wife team Lois Hart and David Walker then anchored CNN's first newscast, followed at 5:30 by Flip Spiceland with the first weather report.
In a chat to mark CNN's 20th anniversary, Spiceland said, "Ted Turner had decided we'd go on air at 5:00 June 1st, ready or not. We were closer to 'not' than 'ready'!"
Emanating from Atlanta, rather than from network news central in New York City, the upstart CNN was the first all-news network in the U.S. It offered a mix of straightforward news reporting and programming including financial news show "Moneyline" and "Crossfire," a political debate program.
The Television Academy Foundation's Archive of American Television sent over a clip of Ted Turner discussing the genesis of CNN and what he had in mind when he launched it.
Among the events that helped to cement CNN's presence in the minds of the American public: the Jan. 28, 1986, Challenger disaster; 1987's around-the-clock coverage of the rescue of "Baby Jessica," a toddler who fell into a well in Midland, Texas; the first Gulf War in 1991, with Peter Arnett reporting live as bombs exploded behind him in Baghdad; and even the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a story that was broken by CNN.
The network faces more competition now, from MSNBC and Fox News, both launched in 1996, and it struggles at times when there is relatively little news happening.
But with James Earl Jones' iconic "This is CNN" introduction, and the ongoing efforts to keep the channel in the news hunt, CNN remains synonymous with "24-hour news."
For more from the Mouth of the South on his baby, click here.
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