John King: CNN’s ‘Ink-Stained Wretch’

By: Charles Geraci

CNN’s John King says he wants his new Sunday morning show to be different, and he’s already using newspapers to help him do it.

During the debut of “State of the Union” ten days ago, King–broadcasting his inaugural coverage live from the rooftop of the Newseum in Washington–showed the headlines of several newspapers from around the nation in an effort to demonstrate that one of his goals for the show early on is to go “outside the Beltway” and look at the needs of communities across the country.

King sat down with Editor & Publisher last week to talk about his impressions of the inauguration, his new four-hour show and to have a little fun in the process.

“Four hours is a challenge, but it’s a great opportunity to do more and to be different,” King said. “We will be different than any other show on television on Sunday morning. And that’s not to criticize the others … but with the time and with my passion to get out of Washington, we’re able to do some things differently that I hope give it a greater connection to people who aren’t in Washington.”

Two days after traveling to Ohio last Friday to tape an interview with now-President Obama–King was the only anchor to have Obama on the Sunday before Tuesday’s inauguration–he made reference to the Cleveland Plain Dealer on his show.

“Because of my show, we brought in some newspapers from around the country, just to take a look at how the Obama pre-inaugural coverage was going,” King told E&P.

He also looked at headlines in The Miami Herald and the Omaha World-Herald, along with detailing the offerings of Sunday’s Chicago Tribune.

“This is Barack Obama’s hometown newspaper, the Chicago Tribune,” King told his viewers. “(It’s) a little breezy up here on the roof of the Newseum, but (the headline reads) ‘Bound for Glory: With White House as last stop, Obama rides rails into history.’ Special graphics, ‘Two days to the White House.’ Special sections. Pretty extraordinary newspaper there.”

He also read headlines from The Boston Globe and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Extensively incorporating newspapers into his first show should not come as too much of a surprise, though, since King, who has been with CNN since 1997, used to write for the Associated Press, heading AP’s political coverage of the 1992 and 1996 presidential elections. Obama’s inauguration was the sixth he’s covered in his career.

Calling the troubles of the newspaper industry a “sad chapter in our business right now,” and noting the effects of a “digital age,” King called himself an “old, ink-stained wretch….

“I like to have newsprint on my hands in the morning,” he said. “I like when people tell me, ‘You know, you’ve got a big smudge on your nose.’ That means I’ve read my third or fourth or fifth newspaper.”

He added, “I’m pretty predictable in the morning–make some coffee, read the papers.”

But King wasn’t all serious in his interview with E&P.

Since he did a lot of reporting from the rooftop of the Newseum that inauguration week–E&P received a tour of the operations and can testify to the wind at the anchors’ backs–King took some time to dispel any notion that Anderson Cooper harbored any hostility toward Wolf Blitzer for “stealing all the heaters,” a comment Cooper made last week that has gotten picked up by several blogs.

King said, “Anderson was just being funny,” adding that the space heater was located by Blitzer to keep it out of the television shot.

When the topic of dancing at inaugural festivities came up, King also poked a little fun at Blitzer before complimenting him, recalling his moves recently on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

“Bastard!” King quipped, while smiling widely. “Wolf was showing us all up there.”

“See, Anderson’s a comedian,” King joked. “Wolf, it turns out, should be on ‘Dancing With The Stars.’ I’m gonna stick to being a lowly reporter.”

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