- The Washington Times - Monday, August 6, 2001

At 6 this morning, a new CNN entity will jolt the TV screen, attuned to the caterwaul of modern households: Here is 20-year-old Headline News in midlife crisis revamped, sped up, winnowed down and repackaged for the hip and frantic.
News chief Teya Ryan puts it more delicately. The reinvented show is meant for "time warriors," she said, those domestic doers who cannot sit through a 30-minute newscast.
"It's the news you need, when you need it. You can't be getting kids ready for school and trying to get yourself ready and log on the Internet and look at the news," Miss Ryan said. "You need to see it in quick steps."
The quick steps will take place around a big, horseshoe-shaped desk that holds as many as six news correspondents at once, under the comely auspices of Andrea Thompson, once an actress on ABC's "NYPD Blue," and former CNN reporter Miles O'Brien.
After Miss Thompson's hire last spring, CNN took criticism from many who claimed the Cable News Network had succumbed to the allure of personality-driven newscasts.
Network brass shrugged. "You want to have people you can connect with," Walter Isaacson, chief of the CNN News Group, said at a recent news conference.
"TV is a personality medium," said Jamie Kellner, CEO of the Turner Broadcasting System, which oversees CNN. "Introducing new, exciting personalities is another way to attract an audience."
Miss Thompson herself remains philosophical about the whole thing.
"I am not a seasoned journalist," she said recently. She describes herself instead as "a promising journalist," bent on getting accurate news to distracted viewers.
That will prove the real challenge to Headline News, which is anything but mere headlines.
The screen itself will roil with stock information, weather, the data du jour, sundry headlines and, finally, the proverbial talking head, who gets only a quarter of the space.
New theme music will fractionate into 60 variations, geared to the content of the news at hand.
"It's harder and harder to maintain somebody's attention span," noted composer Stephen Arnold.
Meanwhile, correspondents will fuss with phones and each other in a section called "Real News, Real Fast," and the old-timey sound effect of a teletype machine will punctuate odd moments.
Former print writers Alisha Davis and Michele Mitchell of Newsweek and the New York Times, respectively, will be among the contributors. To add dramatic underpinnings, CNN will offer a "just-in" anchor who will deliver the breaking news with appropriate gravitas.
Is it just too much? The network could also take the opposite tack and provide a single newscaster on a blank set for those who want no-frills content.
News chief Ryan, who took over the reorganization in January, ran CNN's business network for a year, and she is convinced that the edgy, on-screen thrum of information is a "powerhouse product" and a ratings winner.
Her "time warrior" viewers, she said, can handle plenty. "They are people in motion, baby boomers who do more, manage more, make more decisions … but for whom time is a premium. Time warriors, in short, are all of us."
Contact Jennifer Harper at jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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