Tech Leadership Awards: Dick Tauber

Leading the CNN tech push from startup to powerhouse
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On separate screens in the CNN control room, Dick Tauber
watched three network correspondents, each standing in a different part of Israel or an
Israeli-occupied territory. On the first screen, a missile was launched not far
from the reporter. Soon after, this same missile could be heard from the feed
of the second correspondent, stationed farther west. Finally, on the feed of
the third Israel-based reporter, that same missile was seen and heard striking
a target in the background.

It was a sequence from 20 years ago that to Tauber, now VP
of transmission systems and new technology for the CNN News Group, represents
the power of television technology. "You could follow [the missile's path]
through these three forward correspondents, because they had all this portable,
highly mobile equipment," he says.

Tauber is responsible for delivering CNN's video, audio and
data from the front lines and from the network's bureaus around the world, so
it's key for him to keep abreast of the latest and greatest newsgathering
technologies and put them to good use.

The modest Tauber never planned for a career in television:
"I got here by a fluke," he says.

Tauber was the dean of students at a private school in
upstate New York,
and one of the students he advised turned out to be the son of Reese Schonfeld,
who would become CNN's first president and chief executive. Through that
association, Tauber got a job as a satellite trainee at the new cable network
in 1981.


It's been a whirlwind change in the technology of television for the 29-year
CNN veteran, who notes how dramatically things have evolved since his days at
the network's satellites and circuits department.

"Things work so much better now that we're no longer just
using string and two tin cans," he jokes.

Tauber became director of satellites and circuits in
1985, and a CNN VP in 1994, taking on his current role in 2004. Along the way, he
has managed the network's switch from analog to digital, and watched as the
technology required to report got smaller and smaller, leading to moments like
the one he saw in the Middle East. "We do this stuff with equipment the size of
a notebook," he says. Tauber sees the opportunity to make every CNN employee a
de facto correspondent, with devices that fit in a pocket and can transmit all
sorts of data. As he puts it: "You don't have to be a trained engineer