Reese Schonfeld

Network Creator / Executive


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

Tab

About
About this interview

In his seven-hour interview, Reese Schonfeld talks about his early years, and his time working for United Press Movietone News. He describes his years at UPI Television News, and their coverage of the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He chronicles his role in the creation of the Independent Television News Association, and the exponential growth of that organization under his leadership. He recounts being approached by Ted Turner to help create CNN, and goes on to discuss all aspects of CNN’s launch in 1980, including finding investors, hiring talent, and getting the technology in place to cover news from around the world. Schonfeld discusses CNN’s coverage of the Carter and Reagan administrations, and the Iran Hostage Crisis. He speaks of the impact CNN had on network news, and the creation of the series Crossfire, which indirectly led to his leaving Turner and CNN. He concludes by discussing his role in the creation of the Food Network, and some of his then-current projects. Karen Herman conducted the interview on November 9 and November 11, 2005 in New York, NY.

"CNN -- to me it’s a dream aborted. I see a legacy of what might have been. Hopefully, someone else will be able to pick up and build another news network that will lead more toward 'randomonium,' more toward content over construction."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Reese Schonfeld on his time with UPI Television News
Reese Schonfeld on meeting Ted Turner, and on the creation of CNN
Reese Schonfeld on the early technology used by CNN, some of which gave it a leg up on network news
Reese Schonfeld on his and Ted Turner's attempt to hire Dan Rather to be the main anchor at the inception of CNN
Reese Schonfeld on CNN allowing independent presidential candidate John Anderson to partake in a debate with Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan that he was excluded from, via tape delay
Reese Schonfeld on the legacy and missed opportunity of CNN
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on his earliest impressions of television; on where he got his news growing up
On United Press Movietone News; on his time with UPI Television News; on the feeling in the early 1970s (and earlier) that the press was left-leaning

Chapter 2

On television news covering the Civil Rights Movement; on one-time CNN President Burt Reinhardt; on covering American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell
On covering the Bay of Pigs invasion; on who should have the last word over whether a story runs; on how television falsely depicts American life

Chapter 3

On UPI's coverage of President John F. Kennedy's assassination and funeral, and on their attempts to obtain the Zapruder film
On UPI's coverage of the Vietnam War; on covering a story about a crashed plane carrying a nuclear bomb; on forming the Independent Television News Association in 1975

Chapter 4

On launching Independent Television News Association; on the quick growth of Independent Television News Association; on an early proposed cable news network before CNN
On meeting Ted Turner, and on the creation of CNN; on working alongside Ted Turner to staff CNN at its inception; on organizing CNN in secret, at first

Chapter 5

On Ted Turner's original idea for CNN, and on how Schonfeld developed it from there; on CNN's innovative operating structure: "bottom/up," rather than "top/down" as network news did at that time; on CNN's schedule when it first went on the air
On CNN's early revenue; on Ted Turner choosing the name "CNN"
On how CNN covered breaking news around the world in its early days; on Rome being CNN's first main European base

Chapter 6

On his management style; on what makes a good news story; on objectivity in news reporting
On hiring Ed Turner to be executive vice president of CNN; on hiring Ted Kavanau as CNN's senior producer; on hiring Jim Kitchell as CNN's vice president of production and operations
On Burt Reinhardt's role in the development of CNN; on CNN being completely computerized when it went on the air

Chapter 7

On the early technology used by CNN, some of which gave it a leg up on network news
On the "open newsroom" look of the early CNN broadcasts; on CNN getting the FCC to change the rules on live broadcasts
On the early CNN graphics; on CNN launch day, June 1, 1980

Chapter 8

On Ted Turner raising the capital to launch CNN, and on their early operating budget; on CNN CFO Bill Bevins being at odds with Ted Turner over CNN investors, and on the potential threat of an early CNN competitor
On striking a deal with Steve Ross at Time Warner to use one of their transponders for CNN; on the challenges CNN faced covering its first big story, the Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom
On Ted Turner being hands-on at CNN in the beginning regarding content; on CNN's initial advertisers

Chapter 9

On CNN's initial advertisers when it first went on the air; on finding on-air talent for the first few years of CNN, including Bernard Shaw; on his and Ted Turner's attempt to hire Dan Rather to be the main anchor at the inception of CNN
On hiring Bill Zimmerman, Sandy Freeman, and Lou Dobbs as on-air talent at the start of CNN; on the rules for their initial CNN anchors, including Kathleen Sullivan

Chapter 10

On teaching then-new CNN employees about journalism with "CNN College"; on the first stories CNN covered, including an interview with President Jimmy Carter; on CNN allowing independent presidential candidate John Anderson to partake in a debate with Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan that he was excluded from, via tape delay
On CNN's relationship with the Carter administration; on CNN's relationship with the Reagan administration

Chapter 11

On CNN's coverage of the release of the hostages at the conclusion of the Iran Hostage Crisis; on the decision to make CNN a non-union shop; on dealing with the FCC on satellite delivery of television
On how the higher-ups at network news like Roone Arledge regarded CNN, and on the impact CNN had on network news; on other news organizations pirating from CNN, which led to the inclusion of the CNN logo in the corner of the screen
On various changes and executive decisions he made at CNN during his tenure there; on the creation of Crossfire on CNN, and on the end of his tenure at the network

Chapter 12

On leaving CNN due to conflicts with Ted Turner; on creating Crossfire, and on the role the show played in his exit from CNN; on the terms of his leaving CNN
On his relationship with Ted Turner since leaving CNN; on the legacy and missed opportunity of CNN; on the creation of the Food Network

Chapter 13

On the International Business Channel; on the creation of the Food Network; on Emeril Lagasse's early Food Network shows
On running Julia Child's old shows on the Food Network, and on trying to position the network for women; on the early personalities of the Food Network; on leaving the Food Network

Chapter 14

On what made the Food Network a success; on Scripps Howard taking over the Food Network; on then-current projects
On missing being involved in the news industry; on career achievements and regrets
On advice to someone who wants to start a cable network; on how he would like to be remembered
Shows

Crossfire

View Show Page
Reese Schonfeld on the creation of Crossfire on CNN, and on the end of his tenure at the network
Reese Schonfeld on creating Crossfire, and on the role the show played in his exit from CNN
Topics

Advertising and Sponsorship

View Topic
Reese Schonfeld on CNN's initial advertisers
Reese Schonfeld on CNN's initial advertisers when it first went on the air

Advice

View Topic
Reese Schonfeld on advice to someone who wants to start a cable network

Civil Rights Movement

View Topic
Reese Schonfeld on television news covering the Civil Rights Movement

Historic Events and Social Change

View Topic
Reese Schonfeld on television news covering the Civil Rights Movement
Reese Schonfeld on UPI's coverage of President John F. Kennedy's assassination and funeral, and on their attempts to obtain the Zapruder film
Reese Schonfeld on UPI's coverage of the Vietnam War
Reese Schonfeld on CNN's coverage of the release of the hostages at the conclusion of the Iran Hostage Crisis

Iran Hostage Crisis

View Topic
Reese Schonfeld on CNN's coverage of the release of the hostages at the conclusion of the Iran Hostage Crisis

JFK Assassination and Funeral

View Topic
Reese Schonfeld on UPI's coverage of President John F. Kennedy's assassination and funeral, and on their attempts to obtain the Zapruder film

Jimmy Carter

View Topic
Reese Schonfeld on CNN's relationship with the Carter administration

Network Creation

View Topic
Reese Schonfeld on an early proposed cable news network before CNN
Reese Schonfeld on meeting Ted Turner, and on the creation of CNN
Reese Schonfeld on staffing CNN along with Ted Turner at its inception
Reese Schonfeld on organizing CNN in secret, at first
Reese Schonfeld on Ted Turner's original idea for CNN, and on how Schonfeld developed it from there
Reese Schonfeld on CNN's innovative operating structure: "bottom/up," rather than "top/down" as network news did at that time
Reese Schonfeld on CNN's schedule when it first went on the air
Reese Schonfeld on CNN's early revenue
Reese Schonfeld on Ted Turner choosing the name "CNN," and on creating the CNN logo
Reese Schonfeld on how CNN covered breaking news around the world in its early days
Reese Schonfeld on Rome being the location of CNN's first main European base
Reese Schonfeld on hiring Ed Turner to be executive vice president of CNN
Reese Schonfeld on hiring Ted Kavanau as CNN's senior producer
Reese Schonfeld on hiring Jim Kitchell as CNN's vice president of production and operations
Reese Schonfeld on Burt Reinhardt's role in the development of CNN
Reese Schonfeld on CNN being completely computerized when it went on the air
Reese Schonfeld on the early technology used by CNN, some of which gave it a leg up on network news
Reese Schonfeld on the "open newsroom" look of the early CNN broadcasts
Reese Schonfeld on CNN getting the FCC to change the rules on live broadcasts
Reese Schonfeld on the early CNN graphics
Reese Schonfeld on CNN launch day, June 1, 1980
Reese Schonfeld on Ted Turner raising the capital to launch CNN, and on their early operating budget
Reese Schonfeld on CNN CFO Bill Bevins being at odds with Ted Turner over CNN investors, and on the potential threat of an early CNN competitor
Reese Schonfeld on striking a deal with Steve Ross at Time Warner to use one of their transponders for CNN
Reese Schonfeld on the challenges CNN faced overing its first big story, the Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom
Reese Schonfeld on Ted Turner being hands-on at CNN in the beginning regarding content
Reese Schonfeld on CNN's initial advertisers
Reese Schonfeld on CNN's initial advertisers when it first went on the air
Reese Schonfeld on finding on-air talent for the first few years of CNN, including Bernard Shaw
Reese Schonfeld on his and Ted Turner's attempt to hire Dan Rather to be the main anchor at the inception of CNN
Reese Schonfeld on hiring Bill Zimmerman, Sandy Freeman, Lou Dobbs and various others as on-air talent at the start of CNN
Reese Schonfeld on the rules for their initial CNN anchors, including Kathleen Sullivan
Reese Schonfeld on teaching then-new CNN employees about journalism with "CNN College"
Reese Schonfeld on the first stories CNN covered, including an interview with then president Jimmy Carter
Reese Schonfeld on the decision to make CNN a non-union shop
Reese Schonfeld on dealing with the FCC on satellite delivery of television
Reese Schonfeld on the creation of the Food Network
Reese Schonfeld on the creation of the Food Network
Reese Schonfeld on Emeril Lagasse's early Food Network shows
Reese Schonfeld on running Julia Child's old shows on the Food Network, and on trying to position the network for women
Reese Schonfeld on the early personalities of the Food Network
Reese Schonfeld on what made the Food Network a success
Reese Schonfeld on Scripps Howard taking over the Food Network

Ronald Reagan

View Topic
Reese Schonfeld on CNN's relationship with the Reagan administration

Studio and Network Management

View Topic
Reese Schonfeld on the decision to make CNN a non-union shop

Technological Innovation

View Topic
Reese Schonfeld on CNN being completely computerized when it went on the air
Reese Schonfeld on the early technology used by CNN, some of which gave it a leg up on network news
Reese Schonfeld on dealing with the FCC on satellite delivery of television

Television Industry

View Topic
Reese Schonfeld on an early proposed cable news network before CNN
Reese Schonfeld on meeting Ted Turner, and on the creation of CNN
Reese Schonfeld on staffing CNN along with Ted Turner at its inception
Reese Schonfeld on organizing CNN in secret, at first
Reese Schonfeld on Ted Turner's original idea for CNN, and on how Schonfeld developed it from there
Reese Schonfeld on CNN's innovative operating structure: "bottom/up," rather than "top/down" as network news did at that time
Reese Schonfeld on CNN's schedule when it first went on the air
Reese Schonfeld on CNN's early revenue
Reese Schonfeld on Ted Turner choosing the name "CNN," and on creating the CNN logo
Reese Schonfeld on how CNN covered breaking news around the world in its early days
Reese Schonfeld on Rome being the location of CNN's first main European base
Reese Schonfeld on hiring Ed Turner to be executive vice president of CNN
Reese Schonfeld on hiring Ted Kavanau as CNN's senior producer
Reese Schonfeld on hiring Jim Kitchell as CNN's vice president of production and operations
Reese Schonfeld on Burt Reinhardt's role in the development of CNN
Reese Schonfeld on CNN being completely computerized when it went on the air
Reese Schonfeld on the early technology used by CNN, some of which gave it a leg up on network news
Reese Schonfeld on the "open newsroom" look of the early CNN broadcasts
Reese Schonfeld on CNN getting the FCC to change the rules on live broadcasts
Reese Schonfeld on the early CNN graphics
Reese Schonfeld on CNN launch day, June 1, 1980
Reese Schonfeld on Ted Turner raising the capital to launch CNN, and on their early operating budget
Reese Schonfeld on CNN CFO Bill Bevins being at odds with Ted Turner over CNN investors, and on the potential threat of an early CNN competitor
Reese Schonfeld on striking a deal with Steve Ross at Time Warner to use one of their transponders for CNN
Reese Schonfeld on the challenges CNN faced overing its first big story, the Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom
Reese Schonfeld on Ted Turner being hands-on at CNN in the beginning regarding content
Reese Schonfeld on CNN's initial advertisers
Reese Schonfeld on CNN's initial advertisers when it first went on the air
Reese Schonfeld on finding on-air talent for the first few years of CNN, including Bernard Shaw
Reese Schonfeld on his and Ted Turner's attempt to hire Dan Rather to be the main anchor at the inception of CNN
Reese Schonfeld on hiring Bill Zimmerman, Sandy Freeman, and Lou Dobbs as on-air talent at the start of CNN
Reese Schonfeld on the rules for their initial CNN anchors, including Kathleen Sullivan
Reese Schonfeld on teaching then-new CNN employees about journalism with "CNN College"
Reese Schonfeld on the first stories CNN covered, including an interview with President Jimmy Carter
Reese Schonfeld on the decision to make CNN a non-union shop
Reese Schonfeld on dealing with the FCC on satellite delivery of television
Reese Schonfeld on how the higher-ups at network news like Roone Arledge regarded CNN, and on the impact CNN had on network news
Reese Schonfeld on other news organizations pirating from CNN, which led to the inclusion of the CNN logo in the corner of the screen
Reese Schonfeld on the legacy and missed opportunity of CNN
Reese Schonfeld on the creation of the Food Network
Reese Schonfeld on the creation of the Food Network
Reese Schonfeld on Emeril Lagasse's early Food Network shows
Reese Schonfeld on running Julia Child's old shows on the Food Network, and on trying to position the network for women
Reese Schonfeld on the early personalities of the Food Network
Reese Schonfeld on what made the Food Network a success
Reese Schonfeld on Scripps Howard taking over the Food Network
Reese Schonfeld on advice to someone who wants to start a cable network

Television and the Presidency

View Topic
Reese Schonfeld on CNN allowing independent presidential candidate John Anderson to partake in a debate with Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan that he was excluded from, via tape delay
Reese Schonfeld on CNN's relationship with the Carter administration
Reese Schonfeld on CNN's relationship with the Reagan administration

Vietnam War

View Topic
Reese Schonfeld on UPI's coverage of the Vietnam War

War

View Topic
Reese Schonfeld on UPI's coverage of the Vietnam War
Professions

Cable Executive

View Profession
Reese Schonfeld on his management style
Reese Schonfeld on what makes a good news story
Reese Schonfeld on objectivity in news reporting

Executives

View Profession
Reese Schonfeld on his management style
Reese Schonfeld on what makes a good news story
Reese Schonfeld on objectivity in news reporting
Reese Schonfeld on various changes and executive decisions he made at CNN during his tenure there
Reese Schonfeld on advice to someone who wants to start a cable network

Television Executive

View Profession
Reese Schonfeld on various changes and executive decisions he made at CNN during his tenure there
Reese Schonfeld on advice to someone who wants to start a cable network
Genres

News and Documentary

View Genre
Reese Schonfeld on the creation of Crossfire on CNN
Reese Schonfeld on creating Crossfire, and on the role the show played in his exit from CNN
People

John Anderson

View Person Page
Reese Schonfeld on CNN allowing independent presidential candidate John Anderson to partake in a debate with Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan that he was excluded from, via tape delay

Roone Arledge

View Person Page
Reese Schonfeld on how the higher-ups at network news like Roone Arledge regarded CNN, and on the impact CNN had on network news

Jimmy Carter

View Person Page
Reese Schonfeld on the first stories CNN covered, including an interview with President Jimmy Carter
Reese Schonfeld on CNN allowing independent presidential candidate John Anderson to partake in a debate with Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan that he was excluded from, via tape delay
Reese Schonfeld on CNN's relationship with the Carter administration

Julia Child

View Interview Page
Reese Schonfeld on running Julia Child's old shows on the Food Network, and on trying to position the network for women

Lou Dobbs

View Person Page
Reese Schonfeld on hiring Bill Zimmerman, Sandy Freeman, and Lou Dobbs as on-air talent at the start of CNN

Dan Rather

View Interview Page
Reese Schonfeld on his and Ted Turner's attempt to hire Dan Rather to be the main anchor at the inception of CNN

Ronald Reagan

View Person Page
Reese Schonfeld on CNN allowing independent presidential candidate John Anderson to partake in a debate with Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan that he was excluded from, via tape delay
Reese Schonfeld on CNN's relationship with the Reagan administration

Bernard Shaw

View Person Page
Reese Schonfeld on finding on-air talent for the first few years of CNN, including Bernard Shaw

Kathleen Sullivan

View Person Page
Reese Schonfeld on the rules for their initial CNN anchors, including Kathleen Sullivan

Ted Turner

View Interview Page
Reese Schonfeld on meeting Ted Turner, and on the creation of CNN
Reese Schonfeld on working alongside Ted Turner to staff CNN at its inception
Reese Schonfeld on Ted Turner's original idea for CNN, and on how Schonfeld developed it from there
Reese Schonfeld on Ted Turner choosing the name "CNN"
Reese Schonfeld on Ted Turner being hands-on at CNN in the beginning regarding content
Reese Schonfeld on his and Ted Turner's attempt to hire Dan Rather to be the main anchor at the inception of CNN
Reese Schonfeld on leaving CNN due to conflicts with Ted Turner
Reese Schonfeld on his relationship with Ted Turner since leaving CNN

All Interviews

Q
S