By Libby Copeland
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Daryn Kagan, the longtime news anchor who left CNN last fall when the network didn't renew her contract, has remade herself like a phoenix rising from the ashes. In this, she is much like Henry, the three-legged cat who "turned tragedy to triumph," and whose story she tells along with many others on her new Web site.
"Welcome to DarynKagan.com," Kagan says in one of her daily videocasts. She's wearing a cream-colored sweater and sitting in front of a cozy fire. "Today, we are dipping into the love bucket."
After years spent presiding over the world's tragedies, Kagan now brings news from over the rainbow, tapping America's love for hero dogs and spunky grannies. On television, these tales are usually shoved to the end of the newscast, but on DarynKagan.com (tagline: "Show the world what's possible!"), it's all dogs-'n'-grannies, all the time.
Plus, a nursing mom who sends her extra breast milk to Africa.
"From the moment Stella was born, breastfeeding came very easily to her mother," Kagan explains during that videocast. "Enough for Stella -- and then some."
Kagan brings us a mountain climber who's blind and a Wichita judge who's still hearing cases at age 99. ("You go, Judge Brown!" Kagan says. No word from the defendants.) She goes running with a man who has no legs. She brings in her kitty as a special guest star. She visits with a guy she calls the "love editor" who just happens to have his own Web site, where he sells men on the idea that they should pay him to figure out how they'll propose to their girlfriends.
Over the rainbow, small-business owners decide to give their stores away instead of selling them, and it is never to late to fall in love. Life is set to a soundtrack of swelling guitar music. It's a selective view of the world, to be sure, but is it any more selective than TV news?
(The greatest bias among newspeople is an -ism that has nothing to do with politics. It's cynicism and it's a source of pride for many. Kagan says that when word got around CNN that she was going to start a Web site focused exclusively on the warm and fuzzy, colleagues approached her to confess that they, too, dug those kinds of stories. It was almost like they were "coming out of the closet," she says.)
Kagan, 44, says that when she found out CNN/U.S. President Jon Klein wouldn't be renewing her contract after 12 years, she took it as a sign.
"Sitting in that office, it felt like someone else speaking through Jon Klein, just saying it was really time," Kagan says from her home in Atlanta, which also serves as her studio. For a few months, "I had my sad," she says, employing one of several unique phrasings her friends call D.A.K.-isms, for her initials. But she had always been "spiritual," and she came up with the idea of starting this Web site. She also decided to hold a nurturing weekend she calls "Soulspa," and that "helped me out of my sad."
Launched last November, DarynKagan.com is in between advertising sponsors and is not yet turning a profit. Kagan views this as "all part of the journey," and she's already visualizing her pot of gold. She plans to shop a book proposal soon and she thinks her message is a natural for radio, TV and cellphone content. She has a publicist and a part-time staff of six. She's been giving paid speeches about reinvention, a topic she has come to know well.
Kagan refers to her optimistic ethos as a form of spirituality, but takes pains to talk about it separately from her Jewish upbringing. She points out that her Web site is not affiliated with any religion.
This makes sense, because the bland spirituality we recognize from Successories posters, the spirituality that has seeped into so much of our culture, operates less on biblical principles than Industrial Age ones -- the idea that things naturally go from worse to better and that hope and good old-fashioned American gumption can transform any tragedy into something beautiful. This way of viewing the world has a long legacy, from tent revivals to motivational speakers, from "Queen for a Day" to Oprah.
American optimism, packaged and sold as it is, has its own idiom. Athletes speak the language of uplift when they talk of "playing from the heart," and entrepreneurs when they say "live your dreams." For Kagan, who reads books like "The Power of Intention" and "The Unmistakable Touch of Grace," the language of uplift comes easily. She talks enigmatically about what she considers the crucial difference between "the be's" and "the do's."
"I was always focused on the do," she says. "Oh yeah, here comes another D.A.K.-ism. I'm a recovering do-ist."
"If I could go to Do-aholics Anonymous, I would be, like, the poster child."
Kagan won't talk about her old flame, Rush Limbaugh, from whom she parted ways last year. "I don't discuss Rush," she says. But she is eager to share the "freaky amount" of good things that have happened to her since she started her Web site.
When she needed a publicist, she found out her publicist friend needed a job, and when she needed an editor, she got an e-mail from a fellow who was perfect. When she realized her domain name was already owned by a cyber-squatter, she got it back for free by appealing to the squatter in a loving fashion.
"Let's test this out," she says she decided. "What's this Web site about? Is it about love or hate?"