John King Looks Beyond The Wall

By Chris Ariens 

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Gail Shister
TVNewser Columnist

With his four-year contract up Dec. 31, CNN’s Chairman of the Board is suddenly a hot commodity.

Chief national correspondent John King, whose visibility has skyrocketed since he became BFF with CNN’s snazzy new election “multi-touch” board, is attracting interest from competitors.

“I’d be an idiot if I didn’t talk to people and see what’s out there,” says King, 45, an Associated Press reporter for 12 years before joining CNN in 1997.

“The business is in transition now. It would be foolish not to have lunch or coffee and listen to what people have to say.”

As for negotiations with CNN, “we’ve started talking about talking,” says King, adding that he’s in no hurry to change addresses. “My inclination is that I’ll be here. It’s the place I know. It’s the place that knows my strengths.”

Technology isn’t one of them. A self-described “old wire guy” and “crank,” King was underwhelmed when he was assigned to run the board the day of the New Hampshire primary.

“They said, ‘You’re doing the board tonight.’ I said, ‘I’ve never done it.’ They said, ‘You better learn fast.'”

He did. Since then, King has been CNN’s designated board man.

While acknowledging the board’s data-gathering speed, King’s not in love with the bells and whistles. Covering six presidential campaigns on the ground will do that to a newsman.

“It’s a visual,” he says. “It’s cool. I’m not cool. There’s some pressure to use it for the ‘gee whiz’ elements. I need to be careful so viewers think of it as a ‘value added,’ not a toy. It’s a powerful tool.”

Meanwhile, the acerbic King will take a break in his “life as a cable mule” to marry colleague Dana Bash in Cape Cod Sunday.

The “low key” ceremony will be officiated by a rabbi. King, a Catholic, is converting to Judaism.

His six sibs, all Catholic, support his decision, King says. (His parents are deceased.) So do his 14-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, both being raised Catholic.

Among the adjustments they’ve made to Dad’s conversion: No pepperoni pizza in the house.