In Depth: “Mr. President we must not allowwww an Amanpour gap!”
While flying back from Maui the news broke that CNN’s Christiane Amanpour is jumping to ABC. I don’t think it’s understating things at all to say this is a huge blow to CNN. It also wouldn’t be understating things to say that this is the single biggest defection in CNN’s history and the biggest loss to the network ever, bigger than Bernard Shaw’s retirement.
Amanpour occupied a singular position at CNN – and arguably a singular position in TV news period. Setting aside whatever views you may hold regarding her political leanings, you’d have to agree that her stature in international news and access to world leaders was unique and unmatched by any television journalist currently operating in the medium. Her departure creates a huge void at CNN that will not be easily filled, if it indeed can be filled.
So dominant was her position at the network that CNN really doesn’t have a strong internal bench to draw from as a replacement. You can call it the “Tim Russert syndrome”. And like what happened to NBC when Russert died, you may find CNN turning to a team of people to replace the output of one.
Topping the list of potential successors would be Fareed Zakaria. This would be the logical and best choice but it is also currently the most problematic. While Zakaria does front what I consider to be the best Sunday show on TV, broadcast or cable – and does so despite having one of the worst show names in existence – Zakaria, while having a strong international background, is not really a reporter as much as he is an interviewer/analyst. And he’s not a full time CNN employee. He splits his time between Newsweek and CNN. If CNN was inclined on making Zakaria the next Amanpour they’d first have to convince him to become a full time CNNer and to work on his reporting skills. It’s a tough hill to climb, though not an impossible one.
Once you get past Zakaria though, the next group of possible candidates is fraught with drawbacks. Wolf Blitzer is not known for international affairs to the degree Zakaria is and certainly not to the degree Amanpour is. John King, who has even less of an international pedigree than Blitzer, just got locked to a desk five days a week and won’t be moved. Anderson Cooper? He may have his pet international causes but international world news is not really his forte. And, like King, he’s already tied to a desk five nights a week.
When you get right down to it, there really is no one good internal option for CNN to replace Amanpour. So you will see one of two things happen. Either CNN will split up Amanpour’s duties amongst several people to cover the ground she did or CNN will look outside and bring someone in as a long term work in progress. Such is the void that Amanpour’s departure creates and the headache CNN now faces.