The Cable News Network was launched at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time on June 1, 1980. After an introduction by Ted Turner, the husband and wife team of David Walker and Lois Hart anchored the channel's first newscast. Burt Reinhardt, the executive vice president of CNN at its launch, hired most of the channel's first 200 employees, including the network's first news anchor, Bernard Shaw.
Since its debut, CNN has expanded its reach to a number of cable and satellite television providers, several websites, and specialized closed-circuit channels (such as CNN Airport). The company has 36 bureaus (10 domestic, 26 international), more than 900 affiliated local stations (which also receive news and features content via the video newswire service CNN Newsource), and several regional and foreign-language networks around the world. The channel's success made a bona-fide mogul of founder Ted Turner and set the stage for conglomerate Time Warner's eventual acquisition of the Turner Broadcasting System in 1996.
A companion channel, CNN2, was launched on January 1, 1982 and featured a continuous 24-hour cycle of 30-minute news broadcasts. The channel, which later became known as CNN Headline News and is now known as simply HLN, eventually focused on live news coverage supplemented by personality-based programs during the evening and primetime hours.
On January 28, 1986, CNN carried the only live television coverage of the launch and subsequent break-up of Space Shuttle Challenger, which killed all seven crew members on board.
On October 14, 1987, Jessica McClure, an 18-month-old toddler, fell down a well in Midland, Texas. CNN quickly reported on the story, and the event helped make its name. The New York Times ran a retrospective article in 1995 on the impact of live video news:
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a moving picture is worth many times that, and a live moving picture makes an emotional connection that goes deeper than logic and lasts well beyond the actual event. This was before correspondents reported live from the enemy capital while American bombs were falling. Before Saddam Hussein held a surreal press conference with a few of the hundreds of Americans he was holding hostage. Before the nation watched, riveted but powerless, as Los Angeles was looted and burned. Before O. J. Simpson took a slow ride in a white Bronco, and before everyone close to his case had an agent and a book contract. This was uncharted territory just a short time ago.
The first Persian Gulf War in 1991 was a watershed event for CNN that catapulted the channel past the "Big Three" American networks for the first time in its history, largely due to an unprecedented, historical scoop: CNN was the only news outlet with the ability to communicate from inside Iraq during the initial hours of the Coalition bombing campaign, with live reports from the al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad by reporters Bernard Shaw, John Holliman and Peter Arnett.
The moment when bombing began was announced on CNN by Bernard Shaw on January 16, 1991, as follows:
This is Bernie Shaw. Something is happening outside. ... Peter Arnett, join me here. Let's describe to our viewers what we're seeing... The skies over Baghdad have been illuminated. ... We're seeing bright flashes going off all over the sky.
Because it was unable to immediately broadcast live pictures from Baghdad, CNN's coverage of the initial hours of the Gulf War had the dramatic feel of a radio broadcast – and was compared to legendary CBS news anchor Edward R. Murrow's gripping live radio reports of the German bombing of London during World War II. Despite the lack of live pictures, CNN's coverage was carried by television stations and networks around the world, resulting in CNN being watched by over a billion viewers worldwide – a feat that led to the subsequent creation of CNN International.
The Gulf War experience brought CNN some much sought-after legitimacy and made household names of previously obscure reporters. Many of these reporters now comprise CNN's "old guard." Bernard Shaw became CNN's chief anchor until his retirement in 2001. Others include then-Pentagon correspondent Wolf Blitzer (now host of The Situation Room) and international correspondent Christiane Amanpour. Amanpour's presence in Iraq was caricatured by actress Nora Dunn in the role of the ruthless reporter Adriana Cruz in the 1999 film Three Kings. Time Warner-owned sister network HBO later produced a television movie, Live from Baghdad, about CNN's coverage of the first Gulf War.
Coverage of the first Gulf War and other crises of the early 1990s (particularly the infamous Battle of Mogadishu) led officials at the Pentagon to coin the term "the CNN effect" to describe the perceived impact of real time, 24-hour news coverage on the decision-making processes of the American government.
CNN was the first cable news channel to break the news of the September 11 attacks. Anchor Carol Lin was on the air to deliver the first public report of the event. She broke into a commercial at 8:49 a.m. Eastern Time that morning and said:
This just in. You are looking at obviously a very disturbing live shot there. That is the World Trade Center, and we have unconfirmed reports this morning that a plane has crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. CNN Center right now is just beginning to work on this story, obviously calling our sources and trying to figure out exactly what happened, but clearly something relatively devastating happening this morning there on the south end of the island of Manhattan. That is once again, a picture of one of the towers of the World Trade Center.
Sean Murtagh, CNN vice president of finance and administration, was the first network employee on the air. He called into CNN Center from his office at CNN's New York City bureau and reported that a commercial jet had hit the Trade Center.
Daryn Kagan and Leon Harris were live on the air just after 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time as the second plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center and through an interview with CNN correspondent David Ensor, reported the news that U.S. officials determined "that this is a terrorist act." Later, Aaron Brown and Judy Woodruff anchored through the day and night as the attacks unfolded, winning an Edward R. Murrow award for the network. Brown had just joined CNN from ABC to serve as the breaking news anchor.
Paula Zahn assisted in the September 11, 2001, coverage on her first day as a CNN reporter, a fact that she mentioned as a guest clue presenter on a 2005 episode of Jeopardy!.
CNN has made archival files of much of the day's broadcast available in five segments, plus an overview.
Leading up to the 2008 U.S. presidential election, CNN devoted large amounts of its coverage to politics, including hosting candidate debates during the Democratic and Republican primary seasons. On June 3 and 5, CNN teamed up with Saint Anselm College to sponsor the New Hampshire Republican and Democratic Debates. Later in 2007, the channel hosted the first CNN-YouTube presidential debates, a non-traditional format where viewers were invited to pre-submit questions over the internet via the YouTube video-sharing service. In 2008, CNN partnered with the Los Angeles Times to host two primary debates leading up to its coverage of Super Tuesday. CNN's debate and election night coverage led to its highest ratings of the year, with January 2008 viewership averaging 1.1 million viewers, a 41% increase over the previous year.
CNN again devoted large amounts of coverage to the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign. Chief political correspondent Candy Crowley acted as moderator for one of the three debates between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Conservatives viewed her as overly partisan/biased due to her attempts at correcting statements by Mitt Romney on the 2012 Benghazi consulate attack.
Driven by live coverage of the year's US presidential election, 2016 was CNN's most-watched year in its history. Throughout the campaign, the network aired unedited coverage of many of the Trump campaign rallies. Aides for Republican candidates Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Ted Cruz accused CNN president Jeff Zucker of undermining their candidates during the Republican primaries. Zucker acknowledged that it had been a mistake to air so many of the campaign rallies. CNN also drew criticism during the election for hiring former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who was still being paid by and was effectively working on behalf of the campaign.
At a January 11, 2017 press conference with Donald Trump, CNN reporter Jim Acosta was shouted down when he attempted to ask the President-elect a question. Trump took issue with the network's reporting on a dossier by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele and declared that the cable news network was "fake news".
On October 22, 2016, AT&T reached a deal to buy Time Warner for over $80 billion. If approved by federal regulators, the merger would bring Time Warner's properties, including CNN, under the same umbrella as AT&T's telecommunication holdings, including satellite provider DirecTV.
CNN's current weekday schedule consists mostly of rolling news programming during daytime hours, followed by in-depth news and factual programs during the evening and primetime hours.
The network's morning programming consists of Early Start, an early-morning news program hosted by John Berman and Christine Romans at 4–6 a.m. ET, which is followed by New Day, the network's morning show, hosted by Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota at 6–9 a.m. ET. Most of CNN's late-morning and early afternoon programming consists of CNN Newsroom, a rolling news program hosted by John Berman and Poppy Harlow in the morning and Brooke Baldwin in the afternoon. In between the editions of Newsroom, At This Hour with Kate Bolduan airs from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Eastern, followed by Inside Politics with John King at noon, and Wolf with Wolf Blitzer at 1 p.m.
CNN's late afternoon and early evening lineup consists of The Lead with Jake Tapper, hosted by Jake Tapper at 4 p.m. Eastern and The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, hosted by Wolf Blitzer at 5–7 p.m. ET. The network's evening and primetime lineup shifts towards more in-depth programming, including Erin Burnett OutFront at 7 p.m. ET, and Anderson Cooper 360° Monday through Thursday at 8–10 p.m. ET, and Friday at 8–9 p.m. ET, and CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, hosted by Don Lemon Monday through Thursday at 10 p.m. to midnight ET, and Friday at 9–11 p.m. ET.
The network's overnight programming consists of CNN International program CNN Newsroom, Monday at 2–4 a.m. ET, and Tuesday through Friday at 12–4 a.m. ET.
Since the cancellation of Piers Morgan Tonight, the 9 p.m. ET time slot has been filled by factual programs and documentary series. CNN launched new series in the timeslot for the 2014–15 season, such as John Walsh's The Hunt, This is Life with Lisa Ling, and Mike Rowe's Somebody's Gotta Do It. Jeff Zucker explained that this new lineup was intended to shift CNN away from a reliance on pundit-oriented programs, and attract younger demographics to the network. Despite this, Zucker emphasized a continuing commitment to news programming, as the 9 p.m. hour can be pre-empted as needed for expanded coverage of news events. These changes coincided with the introduction of a new imaging campaign for the network, featuring the slogan "Go there". In May 2014, CNN premiered The Sixties, a documentary miniseries produced by Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman which chronicled the United States in the 1960s. Owing to its success, CNN would produce sequels focusing on the 1970s and 1980s for 2015 and 2016 respectively.
Weekend primetime is dedicated mostly to factual programming, including the reality series Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, along with topical documentaries and specials under banners such as CNN Presents, CNN Special Investigations Unit and CNN Films. The network's weekend morning programming consists of CNN Newsroom (simulcast from CNN International) at 4–6 a.m. ET, which is followed by the weekend editions of New Day, hosted by Christi Paul and Victor Blackwell, which airs every Saturday at 6–9 a.m. ET and Sunday at 6–8 a.m. ET and the network's Saturday program Smerconish hosted by Michael Smerconish at 9 a.m. Eastern and replay at 6 p.m. Eastern. Sunday morning lineup consists primarily of political talk shows, including Inside Politics with John King, hosted by John King at 8 a.m. Eastern and State of the Union, hosted by Jake Tapper at 9 a.m. Eastern and replay at noon Eastern, and the international affairs program Fareed Zakaria GPS, hosted by Fareed Zakaria at 10 a.m. Eastern and replay at 1 p.m. Eastern, and the media analysis program Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter, hosted by Brian Stelter at 11 a.m. Eastern.
CNN began broadcasting in the high definition 1080i resolution format in September 2007. This format is now standard for CNN and is available on all major cable and satellite providers.
CNN's political coverage in HD was first given mobility by the introduction of the CNN Election Express bus in October 2007. The Election Express vehicle, capable of five simultaneous HD feeds, was used for the channel's CNN-YouTube presidential debates and for presidential candidate interviews.
In December 2008, CNN introduced a comprehensive redesign of its on-air appearance, which replaced an existing style that had been used since 2004. On-air graphics took a rounded, flat look in a predominantly black, white, and red color scheme, and the introduction of a new box next to the CNN logo for displaying show logos and segment-specific graphics, rather than as a large banner above the lower-third. The redesign also replaced the scrolling ticker with a static "flipper", which could either display a feed of news headlines (both manually inserted and taken from the RSS feeds of CNN.com), or "topical" details related to a story.
CNN's next major redesign was introduced on January 10, 2011, replacing the dark, flat appearance of the 2008 look with a glossier, blue and white color scheme, and moving the secondary logo box to the opposite end of the screen. Additionally, the network began to solely produce its programming in the 16:9 aspect ratio, with standard definition feeds using a letterboxed version of the HD feed. On February 18, 2013, the "flipper" was dropped and reverted to a scrolling ticker; originally displayed as a blue background with white text, the ticker was reconfigured a day later with blue text on a white background to match the look of the 'flipper'.
On August 11, 2014, CNN introduced its most recent graphics package, dropping the glossy appearance for a flat, rectangular scheme incorporating red, white, and black colors, and the Gotham typeface. The ticker now alternates between general headlines and financial news from CNNMoney, and the secondary logo box was replaced with a smaller box below the CNN bug, which displays either the title, hashtag, or Twitter handle for the show being aired or its anchor. In April 2016, CNN began to introduce a new corporate typeface, known as "CNN Sans", across all of its platforms. Inspired by Helvetica Neue and commissioned after consultations with Troika Design Group, the font family consists of 30 different versions with varying weights and widths to facilitate use across print, television, and digital mediums.
In August 2016, CNN announced the launch of its new initiative, CNN Aerial Imagery and Reporting (CNN AIR). It is a drone-based news collecting operation to integrate aerial imagery and reporting across all CNN networks and platforms, along with Turner Broadcasting and Time Warner entities.
On July 27, 2012, CNN president Jim Walton announced that he was quitting, after a 30-year tenure at the network. Walton remained with CNN until the end of that year. In January 2013, former NBCUniversal president Jeff Zucker replaced Walton.
On January 29, 2013, longtime political analysts James Carville and Mary Matalin, and fellow political contributor Erick Erickson were let go by CNN.
CNN launched its website, CNN.com (initially an experiment known as CNN Interactive), on August 30, 1995. The site attracted growing interest over its first decade and is now one of the most popular news websites in the world. The widespread growth of blogs, social media and user-generated content have influenced the site, and blogs in particular have focused CNN's previously scattershot online offerings, most noticeably in the development and launch of CNN Pipeline in late 2005.
In April 2009, CNN.com ranked third place among online global news sites in unique users in the U.S., according to Nielsen/NetRatings; with an increase of 11% over the previous year.
CNN Pipeline was the name of a paid subscription service, its corresponding website, and a content delivery client that provided streams of live video from up to four sources (or "pipes"), on-demand access to CNN stories and reports, and optional pop-up "news alerts" to computer users. The installable client was available to users of PCs running Microsoft Windows. There was also a browser-based "web client" that did not require installation. The service was discontinued in July 2007, and was replaced with a free streaming service.
The topical news program Judy Woodruff's Inside Politics was the first CNN program to feature a round-up of blogs in 2005. Blog coverage was expanded when Inside Politics was folded into The Situation Room (Inside Politics later returned to CNN in 2014, this time hosted by the network's chief national correspondent John King.). In 2006, CNN launched CNN Exchange and CNN iReport, initiatives designed to further introduce and centralize the impact of everything from blogging to citizen journalism within the CNN brand. CNN iReport which features user-submitted photos and video, has achieved considerable traction, with increasingly professional-looking reports filed by amateur journalists, many still in high school or college. The iReport gained more prominence when observers of the Virginia Tech shootings sent-in first hand photos of what was going on during the shootings.
In early 2008, CNN began maintaining a live streaming broadcast available to cable and satellite subscribers who receive CNN at home (a precursor to the TV Everywhere services that would become popularized by cable and satellite providers beginning with Time Warner's incorporation of the medium). CNN International is broadcast live, as part of the RealNetworks SuperPass subscription service outside the U.S. CNN also offers several RSS feeds and podcasts.
On April 18, 2008, CNN.com was targeted by Chinese hackers in retaliation for the channel's coverage on the 2008 Tibetan unrest. CNN reported that they took preventative measures after news broke of the impending attack.
The company was honored at the 2008 Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards for development and implementation of an integrated and portable IP-based live, edit and store-and-forward digital news gathering (DNG) system. The first use of what would later win CNN this award was in April 2001 when CNN correspondent Lisa Rose Weaver covered, and was detained, for the release of the U.S. Navy crew of a damaged electronic surveillance plane after the Hainan Island incident. The technology consisted of a videophone produced by 7E Communications Ltd of London, UK. This DNG workflow is used today by the network to receive material worldwide using an Apple MacBook Pro, various prosumer and professional digital cameras, software from Streambox Inc., and BGAN terminals from Hughes Network Systems.
On October 24, 2009, CNN launched a new version of the CNN.com website; the revamped site included the addition of a new "sign up" option, in which users can create their own username and profile, and a new "CNN Pulse" (beta) feature, along with a new red color theme. However, most of the news stories archived on the website were deleted. As of 2016, there are four versions of the website: the American version, the International version, the Spanish version, and the Arabic version. Readers can choose their preferred version, but, in the absence of a selection, the server determines an edition according to the requesting IP address.
CNN also has a channel in the popular video-sharing site YouTube, but its videos can only be viewed in the United States, a source of criticism among YouTube users worldwide. In 2014, CNN launched a radio version of their popular Television programming on TuneIn Radio.
In April 2010, CNN announced via Twitter that it would launch a food blog called "Eatocracy," which will "cover all news related to food – from recalls to health issues to culture." CNN had an internet relay chat (IRC) network at chat.cnn.com. CNN placed a live chat with Benjamin Netanyahu on the network in 1998.
CNNHealth consists of expert doctors answering viewers' questions online at CNN's "The Chart" blog website. Contributors include Drs. Sanjay Gupta (Chief Medical Correspondent), Charles Raison (Mental Health Expert), Otis Brawley (Conditions Expert), Melina Jampolis (Diet and Fitness Expert), Jennifer Shu (Living Well Expert), and Elizabeth Cohen (Senior Medical Correspondent).
In October 2012, CNN formed a film division called CNN Films to distribute and produce made-for-TV and feature documentaries. Its first acquisition was a documentary entitled Girl Rising, a documentary narrated by Meryl Streep that focused on the struggles of girls' education.
In July 2014, Cumulus Media announced that it would end its partnership with ABC News Radio, and enter into a new partnership with CNN to syndicate national and international news content for its stations through Westwood One beginning in 2015, including access to a wire service, and digital content for its station websites. This service is unbranded, allowing individual stations to integrate the content with their own news brands.
Over the years, CNN has launched spin-off networks in the United States and other countries. Channels that currently operate as of 2014 include:CNN Airport
CNN Chile – a Chilean news channel that launched on December 4, 2008.
CNN en Español
CNN TÜRK – a Turkish media outlet.
CNN-IBN – an Indian news channel.
CNN Indonesia – an Indonesian news channel that launched on August 17, 2015. (co-owned with Trans Corp)
CNNj – a Japanese news outlet.
CNN Philippines – a Filipino news channel launched on March 16, 2015.
CNN has also launched television and online ventures that are no longer in operation, including:CNN Checkout Channel (out-of-home place-based custom channel for grocery stores that started in 1991 and shuttered in 1993)
CNN Italia (an Italian news website launched in partnership with the publishing company Gruppo Editoriale L'Espresso, and after with the financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, it launched on November 15, 1999 and closed on September 12, 2003)
CNN Pipeline (24-hour multi-channel broadband online news service, replaced with CNN.com Live)
CNN Sports Illustrated (also known as CNNSI; U.S. sports news channel, closed in 2002)
CNN+ (a partner channel in Spain, launched in 1999 with Sogecable)
CNNfn (financial channel, closed in December 2004)
CNN launched two specialty news channels for the American market which would later close amid competitive pressure: the sports news channel CNNSI shut down in 2002, while business news channel CNNfn shut down after nine years on the air in December 2004. CNN had a partnership with Sports Illustrated through the sports website CNNSI.com, but sold the domain name in May 2015. CNNfn's former website now redirects to money.cnn.com, a product of CNN's strategic partnership with Money magazine. Money and Sports Illustrated were both Time Warner properties until 2014, when the company's magazine division was spun off into the separate Time Inc.Note: Boldface indicates that the city is home to one of CNN's original bureaus, meaning it has been in operation since the network's founding.
Many of the following bureaus have been closed or – due to the financial crisis – had their budget cut:
In parts of the world without a CNN bureau, reports from local affiliate station the network will be used to file a story.
In a joint study by the Joan Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University and the Project for Excellence in Journalism, the authors found disparate treatment by the three major cable channels of Republican and Democratic candidates during the earliest five months of presidential primaries in 2007:
The CNN programming studied tended to cast a negative light on Republican candidates – by a margin of three-to-one. Four-in-ten stories (41%) were clearly negative while just 14% were positive and 46% were neutral. The network provided negative coverage of all three main candidates with McCain faring the worst (63% negative) and Romney faring a little better than the others only because a majority of his coverage was neutral. It's not that Democrats, other than Obama, fared well on CNN either. Nearly half of the Illinois Senator's stories were positive (46%), vs. just 8% that were negative. But both Clinton and Edwards ended up with more negative than positive coverage overall. So while coverage for Democrats overall was a bit more positive than negative, that was almost all due to extremely favorable coverage for Obama.
CNN is one of the world's largest news organizations, and its international channel, CNN International is the leading international news channel in terms of viewer reach. CNN International makes extensive use of affiliated reporters that are local to, and often directly affected by, the events they are reporting. The effect is a more immediate, less detached style of on-the-ground coverage. This has done little to stem criticism, largely from Middle Eastern nations, that CNN International reports news from a pro-American perspective. This is a marked contrast to domestic criticisms that often portray CNN as having a "liberal" or "anti-American" bias.
CNN President Walter Isaacson met with Republican Party leaders in Washington, DC in 2001 saying afterwards "I was trying to reach out to a lot of Republicans who feel that CNN has not been as open covering Republicans, and I wanted to hear their concerns," As said by CNN founder Ted Turner, "There really isn't much of a point getting some Tom, Dick or Harry off the streets to report on when we can snag a big name whom everyone identifies with. After all, it's all part of the business." However, in April 2008, Turner criticized the direction that CNN has taken. Others have echoed that criticism, especially in light of CNN's ratings declines since the late 2000s.
In 1998, CNN received the Four Freedom Award for the Freedom of Speech.