‘John King, USA’ to Feature Twitter, Pundits: They ‘are In Touch With a Community. It Makes Them Valuable’

By kevin Comment

kingcnn_3-19.jpgThis afternoon, TVNewser got an inside look at the first rehearsal of “John King, USA,” which officially debuts on CNN Monday. The rehearsal was broadcast online and there was plenty of excitement in CNN’s Washington bureau, often stemming from the show’s enthusiastic EP Michelle Jaconi (read our Q&A here).

King’s first in-studio guest was his wife, Dana Bash, — she also appeared during a segment later in the show called, appropriately, “the misses” — and his first interview was with Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), who ran as a libertarian in the first presidential campaign King ever covered.

Afterward, Rep. Paul told TVNewser he thought it went well and joked, “Since it was his first interview, he had to be nice to me.”

Of course, there were the usual kinks, but overall, Sam Feist, CNN’s VP of Washington programming who’s launched a number of programs, told us, “It was the best first rehearsal I’ve worked on.”

After the show, we grabbed King in the hallway for a interview about the run and his feelings on moving to the prominent time slot:

King’s new show continues CNN’s recent focus on online interactivity with a Twitter feed streaming on the wall. Today’s run-through also featured online pundits, segments about social media, and conversations with experts on politics in the internet age. After the rehearsal, King and Jaconi even did an online discussion looking for viewer feedback on the broadcast. So will the show continue to have that web focus?

“We took it a little beyond today because you’re talking to an online audience,” said King. He explained that some of the guests and segments today may have been chosen for the online audience, but the use of pundits who are editors-in-chief of major political websites is something he feels is important.

“We don’t just want to reach the people who go to RNC and DNC.org,” said King. “[These pundits] are in touch with a community. It makes them valuable. We appreciate them as much if not more for that then for their own opinions on issues. They are representative of a community…so it helps us understand.”

“You’re not going to have anchors or have guests shouting, which contrasts with some of the other shows,” Feist said when asked about how “John King, USA” will compare to other evening cable news programs. “There will be fewer talking points, which means it will be less predictable.”

The show definitely attempts a more casual tone compared its dramatic cousin, “The Situation Room.” Onscreen graphics used images of brick, weathered wood, chalkboards, and typewriter fonts. The soundtrack included Guns n’ Roses and Steve Miller Band. And the show has no official logo, Jaconi told us. Instead, the program has 50 different ones it can use interchangeably. King wants to signal a move beyond the D.C. mindset.

“I’ve been here for 22 years so I like to joke that I’m part of the problem, but I have a lot of friends who I love and admire and respect who cover politics, who for whatever reason…do it primarily from Washington, DC,” King told us. “My lesson in life is that if you just sit here, you will miss a huge part of the story.”

“John King, USA” will air at 7pmET, starting Monday.