With these simple words, Ted Turner changed the way we consume the news of our world forever: “I dedicate the news channel for America, the Cable News Network.”
It was June 1, 1980. The country was still in the middle of the Iran Hostage Crisis and a presidential election that would change the course of the country. Ted Turner saw that and wanted to get out ahead of the curve, though Lisa Napoli thinks if he hadn’t, someone else eventually would have.
“I think some other people could have. Bigger companies, better funded, could have done it, they just didn’t want to take the risk at the time that Ted Turner did it,” Napoli said. “It wasn’t so much that Ted Turner was a visionary, it’s just that he saw the potential of the technology, he had the building blocks including that station in Charlotte that he sold to fund it. If CNN hadn’t done what it did, somebody would have. But, when they came along in 1980, no one had ever imagined that news should be 24/7, that anybody would want to watch it and it had an indelible impact on every single aspect of mass communications.”
Napoli’s new book, “Up All Night,” tells the story of CNN’s founding. Napoli worked there in its earliest years so she was an eye-witness to not only how CNN succeeded but what its success did to the news business, including creating the 24-hour news cycle, in which the deadline is always right now.
It’s not all for the good.
“I mean, look what it’s done to our election cycle,” Napoli said. “People are not trained how to wade through the news. They don’t have media literacy. They have to listen to the source and understand the source that’s delivering them the news. And, I wish more people would do that; I wish we would teach kids how to do that. And that’s where we’ve had a major, societal breakdown, I think.”
See what CNN looked like, when it debuted and how it paved the way for Fox News, in this edition of the Buckley Report.