After a year-and-a-half in the brutal cable news wars, Walter Isaacson is
heading for the exit, quitting his post of chairman of CNN Newsgroup to
run a think tank.
Isaacson, who will stay on until May, is taking the top post at The Aspen
Institute, an environmental and economic think tank.
Replacing Issacson will be Jim Walton, president and chief operating officer of Cable News Network, who will now
become president of CNN Newsgroup (which includes all of CNN's domestic and
Chief news executive Eason Jordan and CNN executive vice president Teya Ryan are
Isaacson -- who had been said to have been restless at points during his CNN
tenure -- admitted that he was not a "natural born TV executive."
"I loved the journalism of CNN, but it took me a while to get into the TV-management part," Isaacson said Monday.
Isaacson said The Aspen Institute offered him opportunities to write and be
active in public policy. But if the position hadn't come along, Isaacson
contended, "I would be perfectly happy chugging away [at CNN]."
Jamie Kellner, Turner Broadcasting System Inc. chief and Isaacson's boss, asked Isaacson --
former managing editor of Time magazine and a 24-year company veteran -- to
stay on until the spring to guide CNN's coverage of a possible war with Iraq.
Despite Isaacson's exit, Kellner added, "We're not going to make any
structural change because we're achieving a lot of success ... We're happy with
the performance of our executive team."
Said incoming chief Walton, "I hope we continue to change for the
Under Isaacson's watch, CNN did move from faceless newscasts to what he called
"signature shows" with veteran broadcast journalists.
But CNN has lost its ratings war with rival Fox News Channel, which has
sharply outrated CNN in monthly Nielsen Media Research ratings for the past year.
Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, in an unusually cordial CNN-related
statement, called Isaacson "an excellent journalist with enormous talent who
made a smooth transition from the print to the television