The first president of CNN, Maurice “Reese” Schonfeld has died at the age of 88.
Schonfeld’s wife Pat O’Gorman, also a former CNN employee, Schonfeld’s daughter Juliette Reverand confirmed his death to CNN. “He loved CNN,” O’Gorman said. He was very proud of it. It was a good time for him.”
Reese Schonfeld was the first president of CNN, teaming up with Ted Turner in 1979 and helping launch the network on June 1, 1980.
Schonfeld hired anchors such as Bernard Shaw, Kathleen Sullivan, Lou Dobbs and Mary Alice Williams, and created Crossfire, featuring Pat Buchanan and Tom Braden. He oversaw the construction of the network in Atlanta, including the newsroom, which was designed to be “totally open.” Schonfeld also chose what technical gear would be used, signed leases for CNN bureaus and built a human resources division.
Turner and Schonfeld butted heads early on. The founder apparently didn’t like Schonfeld’s decision to fire Sandi Freeman, a prime-time host at the time, and Schonfeld’s reputation to “overspend.” Turner fired Schonfeld in 1982, just three years into his run at the network. Burt Reinhardt became president of CNN, followed by Ted Johnson in 1990.
Schonfeld became an ardent critic of CNN later in life, and kept his voice out there through blog posts about cable news for outlets including The Huffington Post.
In the mid-1980s, after leaving CNN, Schonfeld launched News 12, a 24-hour local news channel on Long Island, and in the early 1990s he co-founded The Food Network.