CNN Replaces Anchors on Its Flagging Morning Show

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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 4, 2007

CNN is replacing both of its morning show anchors with recent recruits from other networks, sources familiar with the shake-up confirmed last night.

Soledad O'Brien and Miles O'Brien are out at "American Morning," which has struggled recently in the ratings. The pair, who are not related, will make way for John Roberts, a former CBS anchor and correspondent, and Kiran Chetry, who recently jumped to CNN from Fox News.

CNN has eyed Roberts as a possible morning anchor from the time he left CBS last year. Roberts, who had been Dan Rather's regular substitute on the "CBS Evening News," has filled in frequently as an anchor on "American Morning," "Anderson Cooper 360" and other programs, and regularly hosts the weekend show "This Week at War."

Chetry, who grew up in Gaithersburg, signed with CNN in February shortly after Fox declined to renew her contract. Fox executives said that Chetry insisted on a spot on the morning show "Fox & Friends," which would have required firing a current host, but Chetry denied the account.

A CNN spokeswoman declined to comment on the changes at "American Morning." The CNN sources who confirmed the show's revamping declined to be identified while discussing personnel moves that have not been made public. Both O'Briens are being offered correspondent positions and are expected by network insiders to stay at CNN.

Soledad O'Brien, a former host on NBC's "Weekend Today," joined CNN's morning show in 2003. She has been increasingly involved in special reports, including one from Mexico that colleagues say has pulled her in several directions and away from her four children.

This is the second upheaval at the morning show in two years. Miles O'Brien, who had been a daytime CNN anchor and doubled as its space correspondent, was paired with Soledad O'Brien in 2005, replacing Bill Hemmer, who later signed with Fox News.

According to figures released by MSNBC, its simulcast of the Don Imus radio show was up 39 percent in first-quarter ratings compared with a year ago, while "American Morning," which emphasizes straight news over light features, was down 6 percent. "Imus in the Morning" averaged 358,000 viewers from 6 to 9 a.m., nearly catching the CNN program, which averaged 372,000. "Fox & Friends," which mixes news, personalities and features, remains the cable news leader in that time slot despite a decline of 12 percent in the first quarter, to an average audience of 695,000 viewers.

Howard Kurtz hosts CNN's weekly media program, "Reliable Sources."


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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