‘John King’ EP Michelle Jaconi: ‘I Just Gotta Get Dinner on the Table’

By kevin 

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It’s been four months since Lou Dobbs announced his resignation from CNN and vacated the 7pmET time slot. In two weeks, the hour will finally have a new show and new anchor when John King’s “John King, USA” launches.

TVNewser spoke with the EP of “John King, USA” Michelle Jaconi, who was previously EP of CNN’s “State of the Union,” about the new show. Jaconi also spent a number of years producing NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and won multiple Emmys with NBC News. For the first time, Jaconi will be working on a program that airs weekdays.

First things first, why the wait?

I think because we’re trying to do things differently and I’m new to [daily programming] as is John King, there was a lot to learn and a lot of ducks to put in a row. We actually got a really new team. In this job market, there were so many people applying that I wanted to make sure I had the best team, so what took the most time honestly was staffing. The amount of people applying for jobs right now is staggering. There kept being layoffs in the industry. More and more qualified people were applying for each spot, so that honestly took the longest time, putting the staff together.

What’s your response to the critical viewer that says, “This is another political show?” Wolf Blitzer hosts a general news show, but it’s based out of DC and he’s going to be leading in to John King’s show.

Just the fact that they picked me shows how different they want to be. It is very rare for someone to be asked to be an executive producer for a primetime show who hasn’t had daily experience. I’ve always been a Sunday show girl.

What will be different about this particular show?

I think the whole tone of his show is going to be different. I’m big on respect, that is my biggest thing in producing is that you have to respect your audience. And a lot of television doesn’t frankly. In fact, I get enraged watching a lot of television because I feel like anchors are constantly talking down to me, and I’m kind of offended by that. I’ll take out the “kind of,” I AM offended by that. I think it is much more informative and engaging when someone is treating you with respect. And one of the things around my career I’ve been able to work with anchors that are truly engaging, passionate storytellers, and one of the things that both John King and Tim Russert both have is this complete belief that you can never underestimate the common sense of the average American.

How’s this transition to five days a week going?

To be able to feed my curiosity on a daily basis is fabulous. I’m a mom of two and, in that sense, I’m juggling more than ever, but as I say to everybody, “Motherhood is the most political job there is, because you’re fighting over scarce resources with time being the number one thing.” So in that sense, I think it’s kind of cool to say “OK, I’m not the hyperventilator. I really just need to get dinner on the table.” And I take that mentality to the daily news show. I just gotta get dinner on the table.

Do you feel any kind of pressure, moving into this particular spot in CNN’s lineup, as opposed to the Sunday show?

Of course. I think there’s pressure in both. It’s funny, all journalists thrive on pressure that’s what we’re here for and so I think of it as an opportunity. I look at every interview as, “you’re there for the American people.” I Washington, you get to ask the questions that everybody wants to ask.

How do you think Candy Crowley, the new “State of the Union” anchor, is doing?

Oh, she’s just a natural. It’s so fun how much you just feel good when she’s on air. I’m so ecstatic for her, I’m thrilled and I’m so proud of her.

We had one final important question for Jaconi, to which she replied, “You’re going to see so much magic wall. It’s going to be fabulous.”

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity)