In Friday’s National Journal, Peter Bell profiles CNN’s new political director:
To keep up its broadcasting tempo amid competition from other networks and from blogs, CNN has merged its political reporting unit with senior executive producer Sam Feist’s political programming division. Feist, CNN’s new political director, is a network veteran, having at one time or another produced each of the cable channel’s political programs.
“In the 14 years I’ve been in Washington, the news cycle has really shrunk significantly,” says Feist, 37. “When we created The Situation Room, we wanted to tap into that.” Traditionally, political programs took several hours to plan and departed from the script for only exceptional news events. But Feist and the rest of The Situation Room’s production staff expect news to happen during the program’s daily afternoon time slot; a pair of reporters monitor Internet sources for breaking news, which host Wolf Blitzer delivers to news junkies.
“The show works like an accordion,” Feist says. As news happens, the producers trim planned coverage to make room for it. On slower days, they stretch out the news on hand. “We like to learn things while we’re on the air,” he says. It’s a different model from long-running predecessors Crossfire and Inside Politics, which The Situation Room replaced last year.
Feist has also produced CNN’s political convention coverage, but aside from an internship with then-Sen. Lowell Weicker, R-Conn., he’s spent his career in control booths at CNN, where he was hired as an associate producer in 1991. “I’ve been dabbling in television production since high school, and I’ve always been interested in politics, but I’ve never been an ideologue,” he says. “At the end of the day, you still have your job, no matter who wins or loses.”