Former ABC, CBS, Fox and CNN anchor Paula Zahn was back on primetime TV this Sunday with the debut episode of “On the Case with Paula Zahn” on Investigation Discovery (ID) at 10pmET. TVNewser caught up with Zahn Thursday at the launch party for her new program.
“On The Case” unravels investigations that have dominated news headlines and includes first-ever TV interviews with the subjects. “One of the things that we have been able to do that I think distinguishes us from the normal magazine show is to give Paula the time to go out and really look at every angle on a story and come back with something that’s a little different,” Henry Schleiff, president and general manager of ID, told TVNewser.
Zahn worked at ABC News for three years in the late 1980’s. She moved to CBS in 1990 where she co-anchored the “CBS Morning News.” In 1996, Zahn moved to Fox News anchoring “The Edge” and in 2001 she moved to CNN where she worked until July, 2007.
For Zahn, the crime genre is something of a homecoming. “I was a crime reporter,” Zahn said of her first local TV gig. “I had a police radio in my Datsun B210 and I was the one that tuned in to the police scanners for about 18 hours a day.”
Things have changed quite a bit since those days, something a veteran like Zahn knows well. “I never imagined when I first started in this business that we’d have as many opportunities as we have today to get the day’s news,” she told us. “People are not coming to you at 6:30 at night and 8 o’clock at night and hearing the news for the first time. They have a lot of information before they come to you.”
“I don’t think anybody in our industry can predict what it’s going to look like 10 years from now,” she added.
“The kinds of shows I did early on in my career are probably not going exist in the form they exist now,” she reflected, though she pointed out: “What I do believe is this kind of long-form reporting will continue to have a lot of traction, particularly this genre of television.”
Zahn’s wealth of experience has been a big asset for the new program. “When I sit down for an interview, I’m calling on all the skills I’ve learned many decades ago,” she said.
When we asked what drew her to this particular project, she said, “I had the incredible opportunity to help create the show and be the executive producer in addition to being the only reporter on the show, and because I’ve been mostly tethered to the anchor desk, I’ve never had the luxury of doing this kind of in-depth reporting.”
Zahn has a number of projects at the moment, “When I’m not interviewing convicted killers in maximum security prisons, I’m hanging out with some of the greatest musicians in the world.” Zahn is hosting “Sunday Arts” for WNET in NYC and has worked on long-form docs for PBS in addition to the ID program.
“I’m really thrilled with the mix of work I’m doing now,” she said, “But the really time consuming part of it is this show. It’s taken a huge commitment to get this off the ground.”