BROOKE GLADSTONE: As has been noted on this program and elsewhere, war is good for the news business, and in the current case especially good for CNN. But the re-invigorated cable news pioneer wants to hold on to those numbers after peace breaks out, and it sees a bright future in fresher faces. Joining us now is the always insightful J. Max Robins of TV Guide. Max, welcome back.
J. MAX ROBINS: Brooke, it's a pleasure to be here, as always.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So I notice a number of new faces on CNN. Of course there's a lot of people watching CNN during this crisis. What can you tell us about those faces? What does it mean for the network?
J. MAX ROBINS: Well in general those new faces you see on CNN are younger faces, and maybe some of them have been there a little while, but they're playing a much more prominent role, and that's very deliberate on the part of top management at Turner Broadcasting. It's interesting. For example Frank Cesno [sp?], long time Washington bureau chief for CNN is leaving the network and you're seeing a much younger, squarer-jawed, more matinee [LAUGHS] - matinee idol-looking John King at the White House.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And do you think that there's a lot of expertise lost in that shift?
J. MAX ROBINS:You do see in some cases people there you question whether they're there more because they look like they graduated from Dawson's Creek or for their journalistic acumen.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Give me a few more examples of the new faces we've seen.
J. MAX ROBINS:One guy who's emerged, this guy named Bill Hammer [sp?], who was based in Atlanta and they moved him up here post-September 11th to anchor some of the daytime coverage. This is a guy who doesn't know New York and has made some real gaffes on the air! But I guess they feel he's easy on the eyes, and they think he has, that he's emerging; he's a real talent for the future.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Well we've been hearing at CNN that they were going to attract more viewers by doing more and cheaper talk shows rather than covering the news and that they were going to hire actors to read the news! There was the famous hire of an actress off of NYPD Blue!
J. MAX ROBINS: Right. They hired Andrea Thompson to be a, an anchor on Headline News and it was part of a whole total makeover CNN's sister network, and really one of the key architects of that is a guy named Garth Ancier [sp?], and Garth Ancier is really a brilliant television programmer. He was one of the architects behind The Fox Network when it launched. He was also one of the - well a real prime architect of Dawson's Creek, and he has really been intimately involved with talent, with how, how things are lit -- the whole appearance of CNN and Headline News. It used to be, Brooke, at, at CNN that they'd say hey - here the news is the star. Well, that was fine when CNN was a monopoly. But it's not any more and it hasn't been for a while, and the harsh reality of, of the television news business is that people watch personalities.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Why had CNN resisted this notion of network news stars before now? Because it was too expensive to maintain them?
J. MAX ROBINS:Part of it was cost, and it just - it wasn't in their DNA. They thought that if, you know, we stroke these people, we treat them like stars, they'll become the kind of anchor monsters we've all heard about. Well, yeah, maybe they will be but I had one person there say to me hey! - you think it's tough dealing with some star anchor power here? You know we had to deal with Shannon Doherty [sp?] at the WB! [LAUGHTER] I mean-- it's kind of the price you pay to put people in their seats!
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And is it working?
J. MAX ROBINS:It certainly is! Now look, it's not just the fact that there's more pretty faces on CNN, both male and female. The fact is that they have the most global reach and they can really kind of out-man the other guys. But I think this is part of it too. I mean interestingly, right now, in cable, among 18 to 34 year olds, 18 to 49 year olds, the most watched network is CNN. 18 to 34 year olds! It's not MTV! It's not VH1. It's interesting too if you watch CNN right now -- and they know this -- they're running promos, they're running spots for another entity in that same corporate family -- they're all under the AOL/Time Warner banner -- the WB Network! That's key audience is 18 to 34 year olds.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: That is one of the most amazing crossovers I think I could imagine!
J. MAX ROBINS: It really is!
BROOKE GLADSTONE: I always thought news skewed old!
J. MAX ROBINS: In normal times it does. I mean CNN does extremely well with people 50 and over. But--these are not normal times.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Well Max, thank you very much!
J. MAX ROBINS: It's a pleasure Brooke. Thank you.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Max Robins writes The Robins Report for TV Guide.