Adapted from On This Day In History from The Stars Hollow Gazette
On this day in 1980, CNN (Cable News Network), the world’s first 24-hour television news network, makes its debut. The network signed on at 6 p.m. EST from its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, with a lead story about the attempted assassination of civil rights leader Vernon Jordan. CNN went on to change the notion that news could only be reported at fixed times throughout the day. At the time of CNN’s launch, TV news was dominated by three major networks–ABC, CBS and NBC–and their nightly 30-minute broadcasts. Initially available in less than two million U.S. homes, today CNN is seen in more than 89 million American households and over 160 million homes internationally.
CNN was the brainchild of Robert “Ted” Turner, a colorful, outspoken businessman dubbed the “Mouth of the South.” Turner was born on November 19, 1938, in Cincinnati, Ohio, and as a child moved with his family to Georgia, where his father ran a successful billboard advertising company. After his father committed suicide in 1963, Turner took over the business and expanded it. In 1970, he bought a failing Atlanta TV station that broadcast old movies and network reruns and within a few years Turner had transformed it into a “superstation,” a concept he pioneered, in which the station was beamed by satellite into homes across the country. Turner later bought the Atlanta Braves baseball team and the Atlanta Hawks basketball team and aired their games on his network, TBS (Turner Broadcasting System). In 1977, Turner gained international fame when he sailed his yacht to victory in the prestigious America’s Cup race.
The Cable News Network was launched at 5:00 p.m. EST on Sunday June 1, 1980. After an introduction by Ted Turner, the husband and wife team of David Walker and Lois Hart anchored the first newscast. Burt Reinhardt, the then executive vice president of CNN, hired most of CNN’s first 200 employees, including the network’s first news anchor, Bernard Shaw.
Since its debut, CNN has expanded its reach to a number of cable and satellite television companies, several web sites, specialized closed-circuit channels (such as CNN Airport Network), and a radio network. The company has 36 bureaus (10 domestic, 26 international), more than 900 affiliated local stations, and several regional and foreign-language networks around the world. The channel’s success made a bona-fide mogul of founder Ted Turner and set the stage for the Time Warner conglomerate’s eventual acquisition of Turner Broadcasting.
A companion channel, CNN2, was launched on January 1, 1982 and featured a continuous 24-hour cycle of 30-minute news broadcasts. A year later, it changed its name to “CNN Headline News”, and eventually it was simply called “Headline News”. (In 2005, Headline News would break from its original format with the addition of Headline Prime, a prime-time programming block that features news commentary; and in 2008 the channel changed its name again, to “HLN”.)