The disgraced former governor of New York will soon step into the one-hour nightly 8 p.m. EST time slot at CNN to be vacated by Campbell Brown
. Despite what you think of Eliot Spitzer as a human being, from a programming standpoint, the channel that Ted Turner built in the heyday of cable television has negotiated a very exciting deal for itself. Since his previous full-time job ended abruptly
in 2008, Spitzer, now billed by CNN as a "legendary prosecutor and progressive governor," has been rehabilitating himself as a journalist
. (For those who have forgotten, he was caught in an FBI sting illegally contracting with a call girl
for illicit reasons.)
CNN's President Jon Klein confirmed
Wednesday, after weeks of rumors
, that the former attorney general and white-collar crime avenger (later known briefly as "Client # 9") will be paired with "iconoclastic conservative commentator" Kathleen Parker to co-anchor the original 24-hour cable news network's evening prime-time program. Parker first pierced the consciousness of many fans during the 2008 election when she wrote that then-newly hatched political phenomenon Sarah Palin was (at least at that point) still playing a farm team game
Whatever else the counterpoint view of Parker will bring to the mix, she is decidedly not "out of her league." Her syndicated column runs in more than 400 newspapers
throughout the heartland, and last year she won a Pulitzer Prize for her witty political commentary
So much of TV news stardom comes from being in the right place on a big story at the right moment in your career. Parker coincidentally lives much of the time in this season's most politically interesting state on the map -- she commutes to D.C. from Camden, S.C., where her husband practices law.
(South Carolina has had an outsize share of political sex scandals. When Gov. Mark Sanford was caught cheating on his wife, Jenny, the South Carolina first lady refused to subscribe to the steely stoicism of Spitzer's wife
, Silda. The Sanfords are divorced but cordial, and the Spitzers are still married. We wish both couples all the best in the next news cycle. )
According to the press release, Parker and Spitzer will host "a spirited, nightly round-table discussion program." Viewers will be sure to tune in to see how "spirited" their discussion truly is the first time a political sex scandal hits the headlines after the show debuts this fall.
Though journalism is still a semi-respectable occupation, many in his new profession believe Spitzer continues to hold dreams of re-entering the elective office sweepstakes. The ever suspicious citizens of New York City like my PD colleague Walter Shapiro, will no doubt be the last to forgive him
, but a chagrined politician could do worse than have a seat in hundreds of thousands of living rooms every night. Wherever the meteoric ascension and crashing decline trajectory his career takes his future, for CNN at least, the notoriety of their new anchorman is bound to be value added.
I admit I have not watched Spitzer's more recent appearances in front of the camera
as guest pundit and opinion maker with soiled portfolio. I understand from colleagues he's got pretty good "Q
" (that special quality some viewers find irresistible in newscasters), but Q isn't enough (nor, for that matter, is IQ, or Campbell Brown would have had a hit show), and it's an open question whether the new guy on the CNN bench will be believable as their latest integrity filter for news delivery.
Producing television, like running a state government, is an immensely collaborative profession. With television news, most of the magic comes from the other side of the camera -- in the lens view and in the edit or control room. Spitzer lost a lot of credibility when he betrayed his constituency and political supporters along with his wife.
He should internally acknowledge early and often the essential news gathering, whispering in earpieces, modulating of microphones, (also, makeup application and key light placement) provided by his new colleagues. The competition for the new headliner duo will include Bill O'Reilly on Fox
, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann
, and Nancy Grace
on a CNN sister channel, and Eliot will need a supportive team to take on "the toughest time slot in cable news
The CNN logo has struggled maintaining an audience in the years since "Crossfire
" was a nightly fix for news junkies. (After CNN announced the program, New York University media professor Jay Rosen tweeted: "Fun thing for media watchers over the next few days will be CNN trying to explain that its new show is NOT Crossfire Returns. Not. Not. Not
While comedian Jon Stewart, whose media criticism
effectively ended the two-decade reign of "Crossfire," will likely not be scheduled to guest on the new Kathleen & Eliot show, I bet Comedy Central's Daily Show producers have been gathering archival video since CNN's announcement confirmed the deal early Wednesday