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Soledad O'Brien, Ashleigh Banfield get new shot at anchor jobs on CNN's morning show in 2012



soledad-obrien-.jpgCNN today confirmed what has been floating around the media reports for a while; anchor Soledad O'Brien has been drafted to host a new 7 a.m. show to replace the channel's American Morning program. Former MSNBC and ABC News anchor Ashleigh Banfield will also come over to co-host a 5 a.m. morning show also planned for 2012.

This two-hour show is a rare second act for O'Brien, who was replaced on American Morning by Kiran Chetry back in 2007 due to low ratings. But current CNN/U.S. president Ken Jautz was not in power then, and O'Brien has distinguished herself with her attention-getting Black in America and Latino in America documentary reports. (let's hope she can still find the time to crank out one or two while working mornings).

zorida-sambolin.jpgBanfield, who will join former Telemundo Chicago anchor Zoraida Sambolin (at left) on a two-hour 5 a.m. show, is also returning to an anchor slot after years of reporting for ABC News. Known for her trademark, boxy black glasses, Banfield seemed headed for stardom until she complained about jingoism in reporting on U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. eventually, she was demoted at NBC and left for jobs at truTV and ABC News.

CNN's press release says the shows, which weren't named, will "launch a new format of news and conversation" that the channel has dubbed a "conversational ensemble program." Without an example, it sounds like a shot at the salon-style format of Joe Scarborough's Morning Joe on MSNBC.

With O'Brien and Sambolin, it also feels like an attempt to counter rivals on MSNBC and Fox with the kind of ethnic diversity you see on morning news shows on the networks. Cable has sometimes felt a bit behind the scenes in that regard, with Fox and Friends and Morning Joe decidedly lacking in permanent co-anchors of color.

Look below for CNN's press release:

ashleigh-banfield.jpgSoledad O’Brien Returns to Mornings with New Show, New Direction

Ashleigh Banfield and Zoraida Sambolin Co-Anchor 5-7am; Soledad O’Brien Anchors 7-9am

CNN will launch a new format of news and conversation in the morning, including a 7-9am ET show anchored by award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien in 2012.

O’Brien will anchor a new conversational ensemble program that explores top issues of the day while opening the conversation to people from all walks of life.  O’Brien will continue to be a special correspondent for long-form documentaries at CNN. 

“I couldn’t be more eager to return to daily news, to bring conversation and context to CNN viewers in the morning.  I welcome the opportunity to give voice to people who aren’t often heard, and stories that are sometimes overlooked,” says O’Brien.  “I love telling people’s stories, and I’m looking forward to bringing the perspective, heart and storytelling that have worked well in our documentaries to a morning audience”

“CNN has the opportunity in the morning to cover a wider range of stories from broader perspectives,” says Executive Vice President of CNN Ken Jautz. “We are planning to offer something original in the four-hour morning block to complement our direction in primetime.”

"This is an exciting time to be relaunching our morning show, with the morning television audience more up for grabs than it has been in years," says Executive Vice President and Managing Editor of CNN Mark Whitaker, who will oversee development of the new program. "With CNN's global reach and this unique cast of superb journalists as anchors, we have the opportunity to do something truly fresh and different."

Ashleigh Banfield and Zoraida Sambolin will anchor from 5-7am ET, kicking off the new CNN morning block with a new program covering a broad spectrum of the day’s news from two highly personable and passionate journalists.

Since joining the network in 2003, O’Brien has reported breaking news from around the globe—including the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, hurricane Katrina, and the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.  In addition, she has produced award-winning documentaries, including the acclaimed Black in America, Latino in America and Muslim in America.  Earlier this year she was part of a CNN team that won an Emmy Award for their reporting of the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti.  O’Brien came to CNN from NBC, where she anchored the network’s Weekend Today show from 1999-2003.  She was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists in 2010.  That same year she launched a personal foundation with her husband, the Soledad O’Brien and Brad Raymond Foundation to send underprivileged youth to and through college. 

Banfield has covered national and international stories including live reports from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, England, Israel (West Bank and Gaza), Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Saudi Arabia. Most recently, she was a correspondent for ABC News, reporting for Good Morning America, 20/20 and Nightline. Prior to ABC, Banfield anchored and hosted three programs on TruTV (formerly Court TV); Banfield and Ford: Courtside, Hollywood Heat and Disorder in the Court. As a correspondent for NBC News from 2000-2004, Banfield reported for The Today Show, NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw and Dateline. She received Emmy Award recognition for her groundbreaking 9/11 coverage from Ground Zero in New York City.

Sambolin was the Weekday Edition co-anchor of NBC5 News Today in Chicago and special assignment reporter and fill-in news anchor for Telemundo Chicago. She also served as host of Un Buen Doctor, a weekly Spanish language medical series airing on cable stations worldwide. Before joining NBC5, Sambolin was the creator and Emmy award-winning host and executive producer of Small Talk for Parents on WYCC-TV and Nuestros Ninos on WSNS-TV from 1999 to 2002.




[Last modified: Thursday, November 3, 2011 11:17am]


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