CNN25: Conversation With Ted Turner: “We Did It Together!,” CNN’s Founder Says

By Brian 

> Update: 11:35pm: Here is’s summary of the conversation with Ted Turner. And here’s the AP story about it…

Many of the conference participants were waiting for Wednesday afternoon, for the “Conversation with Ted Turner.” It was held under a big tent on the lawn of Techwood, CNN’s original headquarters. Here are the highlights of his remarks:

> Turner talked about how he risked all his fortune, and then some, on CNN. “I figured if we just got on the air and just started, when people actually saw how important it was going to be, to have news available anytime night or day, that I’d be able to raise more money later on. But it was a big gamble, and a great risk, and I won against unconventional business thinking in several ways.” “Failure was not an option,” he added.

> CNN is Turner’s second-proudest achievement, after his own children. “As much as I liked winning the World Series and the America’s Cup, it’s CNN all the way.”

> As the audience applauded at the end of the session, Turner shouted: “We did it together!”

Much more after the jump, including mentions of Fidel Castro, Eason Jordan, and becoming the “New York Times of the airwaves…”

> Turner said he wasn’t just in it for the money: “I really thought that the world would benefit by having lots of information about all different parts of the world.” He admitted the network wasn’t always serious: “We did follow O.J. Simpson around L.A. all day, and we had Jessica in the well, and we did a number of continuing stories that were pretty trivial but of high interest. But our main concern was on serious news.”

> Moderator Christiane Amanpour said she recalled seeing Ted in the Turner 24-hour cafeteria in a bathrobe and bare feet.

> Turner got the idea to go global from Fidel Castro. “He bought a satellite dish or got one somehow and started watching the news. He said it was incredibly important. When I met him in ’82, he said ‘Ted, the whole world needs CNN. I use it all the time and it’s very important to me.’ Well, I said, if Castro needs it, then capitalists need it, and maybe some other communists too!”

> Turner mentioned Eason Jordan and CNN’s coverage of the first Gulf War: “We made friends with the Iraqi TV people like we’ve made friends with everyone here in the room. So when war clouds were gathering over Iraq, our people, thanks to Eason Jordan and others following up — we had the position where we were right over there, and we were also known a being fair. The Iraqis kind of chose us — if there was going to be anyone broadcasting out of there…

So basically by making friends all over the world, which included the Iraqi TV people, and Tariq Aziz, the secretary of information or whoever he was, we got access that others didn’t. When the war started, we were broadcasting, and nobody else was. By being nice sometimes, it works out really well.”

> “Is CNN the vision you expected?,” Amanpour asked. “Yes, yes it is,” Ted said. “The only thing that I would suggest, and I love it the way it is, but I would like to see us return to a little more international coverage on the domestic feed, and a little more environmental coverage. [LOUD APPLAUSE] And maybe a little less of the pervert of the day…”

Amanpour interrupted: “But when everybody else is doing that –” And Turner interrupted her: “Somebody’s gotta be a serious news — I didn’t know much about journalism. I watched a little bit of TV, listened to a little bit of radio. But listen, somebody’s got to take the position of being the place to go. Somebody’s gotta be the most respected name in TV news. I wanted that position for CNN. I wanted to be the New York Times of the airwaves, not the New York Post. That’s what we set out to do, and we did it.