Growing Up on the News

CNN’s Feder brings level head, trivia skills to newsroom

Why This Matters

Bart Feder


Senior VP, programming, CNN/U.S.


CUNY–Brooklyn College, 1976-78; New School University, 1978-79; CUNY–Hunter College, 1980-81

Employment Highlights:

WHDH-TV Boston, assistant news director, 1990-92; news director, 1992-93

WABC-TV New York, assistant news director, 1993-96; news director, 1996-2000

The Feed- Room, senior VP, 2000-04; president/ CEO, 2004-08

Current position since January 2008


born Aug. 20, 1959; wife Karen; 16-year-old daughter and 13-yearold boy and girl twins

Bart Feder is a self-declared presidential geek. He
memorized all of the U.S. presidents when he was only
5 years old and has been collecting antiquarian presidential
books for the last 20 years. In fact, the collection has become so expansive, he has lost
count of the number of volumes that
fill the library of his New Jersey home.

His trove of presidential knowledge
didn’t go unnoticed when Feder, 51,
joined CNN in early 2008 as senior
VP of programming. One day, then-
CNN political director Sam Feist asked
aloud if there had ever been a president
from Indiana. Feder answered
immediately, “Benjamin Harrison.”
The room was impressed, and for the
rest of election season, the staff made
a sport of Feder’s “steel trap memory,”
asking him a trivia question at the start
of every morning meeting until inauguration
day in 2009.

If Feder himself was a president, he’d
be the kind you’d want to have a few
beers with, according to his colleague
and friend Darius Walker, CNN New
York bureau chief. The two first met
more than 20 years ago when Feder was
an 11 p.m. producer at WHDH Boston
and Walker was his assignment editor.
“He’s very personable, very likeable,”
Walker says. “By looking at him and talking
to him, you wouldn’t get the sense
that he’s so intense in his work.”

But Feder has always been passionate
about the news. He grew up in Brooklyn,
N.Y., the youngest of three; his father was
a teacher and his mother a homemaker.
As a child, he slept with a radio under his
pillow at night, drifting off to the sounds
of the all-news station. He skipped a
grade and graduated high school early,
enrolling in college when he was just 16.
Starting as a political science major, he
soon joined the radio station at Brooklyn
College and was immediately hooked.

By 18, he was working full-time at
WINS news radio in New York; college
became a part-time gig. He recalls teachers
asking if he could get them an interview
at the radio station, which “kind of
changes your perspective,” he says.

So while Feder attended three colleges
over five years, he never graduated, a
track record he now has to defend to his
three teenage children, who like to hold
it over his head. “I tell them do what I
say, not what I did,” he says. “I don’t recommend
my career path to anybody, it
just happened to work out for me. “

While Feder did on-air work briefly at
the college radio station and early in his
3½-year tenure at WINS, he always
wanted to be behind the scenes as a
writer, editor and producer. “I decided
pretty early on that I liked the idea of
doing more than one story at a time,”
he says.

That ultimately led him toward management,
and he worked as a news director
at four different TV stations in the 1980s and ’90s, including the flagship
WABC New York for four years.
Throughout his career, he has earned
a reputation as fair, balanced and methodical
in a high-pressure environment.
“He’s really thoughtful in his
process of dealing with situations,”
Walker says. “He’s a voice of reason
and will think things through.”

Feder took an eight-year hiatus from
television in the 2000s to serve as an
executive at Web video company The
FeedRoom. But when the bubble burst
and the FeedRoom changed into a software
company, he started searching for
his replacement. And when the CNN
position opened up at the end of 2007,
he jumped at it, anticipating the big news
year ahead. “I couldn’t think of anywhere
else I’d rather spend the election year of
2008 than at CNN,” he says.

A news guy to the core, Feder doesn’t
spend his time defending CNN’s ratings
against the louder networks of MSNBC
and Fox News. “Our job is to do the best
job as journalists and put the best product
on the air, and when it actually matters,
the world shows up,” he says. “And
that’s enormously satisfying.”

As senior VP, Feder is responsible for
all New York-based programming. He
soon will turn his attention to developing
a show for Erin Burnett, who joins
the network this month. For now, CNN
is leaving its options open regarding the
show’s format and time slot, with Feder
saying, “We don’t have any pressure as to
when it launches.”

And then there’s of course the
looming presidential election, always
a boon to the network. Asked if the
CNN team would revive the trivia tradition
for 2012, Feder replies with a
laugh, “My God, I hope not. It became
very stressful.”

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