You have seen the last of "Connie Chung Tonight."
Effective immediately, CNN has canceled the prime-time newsmagazine that had been on the air only since last June. Also gone is anchor Connie Chung -- the broadcast network news star CNN had wooed to become its crown jewel in a new star-strewn prime-time lineup.
Chung, who is less than halfway through her contract with the cable news network, opted to leave after declining an offer to remain in some on-air capacity, but definitely minus a prime-time program of her own.
"Connie is leaving the network," CNN spokeswoman Christa Robinson said late yesterday. "We offered her an opportunity to stay in another on-air capacity and she turned it down."
Chung could not be reached late last night.
"Connie Chung Tonight" was last seen at 8 p.m. March 19, right before the United States started bombing Iraq in earnest. Since then war coverage anchored by Aaron Brown has filled the slot.
Chung had been brought in by CNN President Walter Isaacson and his boss, Turner Broadcasting Chairman Jamie Kellner, best known for founding the WB network. She was hired as part of a push to compete more effectively against the growing Fox News Channel with slicker sets, more sophisticated graphics and "name" on-air talent.
CNN built a spiffy new midtown Manhattan studio for Chung and her show launched last June with much fanfare and mixed results. Almost immediately, critics noticed that the 56-year-old Chung, who has more than 30 years' experience, who worked for three broadcast news operations, including a stint co-anchoring the CBS evening newscast with Dan Rather, and who CNN describes as an "icon journalist," actually wasn't very good at live TV. Within a few months the network decided to tape the show when possible. Over its brief life, "Connie Chung Tonight" has evolved into a program heavy on true-crime and personality-driven stories.
Still, the show improved CNN's performance in the hour, attracting an audience that hovers around 1 million viewers. She brought CNN double-digit growth in the 8 p.m. weekday time slot.
But Chung got her career caught in the ever-revolving door to the executive suite. Both Isaacson and Kellner recently announced their resignations, and the guys brought in to replace them are decidedly CNN old guard; they like their TV news with a little less of the rooty-tooty.
Jim Walton, Isaacson's replacement, made the decision to cancel Chung's show. That no doubt pleases CNN founder Ted Turner, who was recently quoted as saying that Chung's show was "just awful." He recanted a few days later, but that's Ted.
Walton is also the guy to thank for pulling the plug a few weeks back on CNN's afternoon talk show "Talkback Live," which had been hosted by Arthel Neville -- another new-guard hire.