Well, sort of — “If I wasn’t nervous, I wouldn’t have a pulse,” she says brightly — but, well, no, not exactly. “I’ve never been nervous in front of a TV camera,” she says later.
Why her and why now? Bolduan laughs and answers with self-mocking bravado: “Because I’m super awesome!”
You’d be confident, too, if you’d scrambled up the slippery TV-news ladder as fast as Kate Bolduan. After graduating from George Washington University just eight years ago, she went from an internship at NBC News and WRC-TV in Washington to her first on-air reporting job at a station in North Carolina without a single minute on TV. She was 24 when CNN Newsource, the network’s wire service for local TV stations, hired her to cover national stories. A few short hops later, she was covering Congress for the mother network and sitting next to Wolf Blitzer as a co-anchor on “The Situation Room.”
And now this. Starting Monday at 6 a.m., Bolduan (pronounced “Baldwin”) takes on a potentially star-making role. CNN is building a three-hour block around her and co-host Chris Cuomo on its new wake-up program, called “New Day.” She’ll be the youngest morning anchor on a major network.
CNN is counting on Bolduan and Cuomo to be the sort of companionable morning TV buddies who build long-running franchises and make their hosts (see: Katie and Matt, Regis and Kelly, Hoda and Kathie Lee) into tabloid-worthy stars. Bolduan won’t be just a newsreader or a reporter, but a personality, chitchatting her way through the alarm-clock hours.
The network has spent months preparing for “New Day.” It has launched boatloads of promotional ads, hired a new executive producer (former “Good Morning America” honcho Jim Murphy) and built a new set inside its Time Warner Center studios here (the exposed-brick-and-Jetsons-Collection decor is meant to suggest a Manhattan loft, Murphy says). The promos for the program position Cuomo, 42, and Bolduan as a sunny older brother-younger sister act, a newsy Donny and Marie. In one spot, she finishes his sentence. “This. . . ” he starts, and then she chimes in with a giggle: “. . . is CNN.”
The development of “New Day” has been closely watched within the TV industry, if perhaps not so much outside of it, because it may be the key to CNN’s revival. Mornings have been a ratings sinkhole at CNN for years, one of many craters on the network’s daily schedule. While Fox News built a loyal following with the popular (and often parodied) “Fox and Friends” and MSNBC followed with the crackling political chatfest “Morning Joe,” CNN has left viewers dozing at sunrise. “New Day’s” predecessor, “Starting Point,” lasted just 17 months before facing the firing squad. At the moment, CNN pulls about 275,000 viewers from 6 to 9 a.m., less than one-quarter the audience of “Fox and Friends” and about two-thirds that of “Morning Joe.”