It looks like one of CNN's most liked stars won't fit at the burgeoning home of poop-cruise story torture and soft morning news — this is new president Jeff Zucker's CNN, and Soledad O'Brien is not it. The Starting Point anchor is reportedly leaving the network, according to The New York Post's Page Six sources. The Post claims that Zucker's shift to Erin Burnett and Chris Cuomo in the mornings "is basically done," and that O'Brien may not be swapping with Burnett in the evenings after all. "Soledad had been told she'd get a prime-time slot, but that hasn't yet happened, and now she is telling friends she is likely to leave," one of The Post's two anonymous sources said.
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If you're a fan of Starting Point, you can take some solace in that Page Six's run-up to Zucker's changes hasn't come to complete fruition... yet. a tiny bit solace in that some some of Page Six's revelations haven't happened ... yet. They outlined the new morning shift late last month, although Cuomo hasn't moved from his co-hosting gig during primetime breaking-news events like the Christopher Corner manhunt ... yet. That whole Ann-Curry-to-CNN-primetime rumor from December still hasn't been worked out ... yet. And — who knows? — this could light the fire to get CNN execs talking (probably to Page Six) about keeping O'Brien in primetime after all. Last time we checked, even shifting Curry to the 10 o'clock hour would leave one spot open — for O'Brien or another new splashy hire from Zucker ... or, you know, more Anderson Cooper.
Throwing O'Brien overboard would definitely signal a cleaning of the slate for Zucker. She was at once the face of CNN's shaky programming lineup when her show split from American Morning into Starting Point, and Zucker's Today show history makes him an undisputed king of soft-news, double-anchor morning-show success. But back in November, just before Zucker's appointment was announced, the last CNN regime — perhaps as a parting shot (Zucker hired back his old PR crew this week) — was more than happy to let us know that O'Brien was getting better ratings than ever.. "Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien had its best month since launching in January, growing double digits from a year ago. In total viewers the morning program was up +36% (393k vs. 290k) and increased 44% in the key demo 25-54 (164k vs. 114k)," CNN said. And O'Brien had a string of tough interviews that cemented her place with the Internet commentariat... if not exactly the kind of mass audience Zucker may looking for.
"Soledad is talented at producing in-depth, serious pieces of journalism, and is a tough interviewer. That doesn't seem to fit the direction the network is going," The Post's source says. And if the first few weeks under Zucker's reign are any indication, that direction involves 24/7 cruise-ship coverage to own a story with its, uh, news resources and without, the big-name pundits that continue to take over Fox and MSNBC. Cuomo and Jake Tapper have already proven their chops on-air, and there's now talk (again from The Post) that Zucker is "in conversation... about job opportunities" with former NBC News chief Steve Capus, who was known in the pre-Michael Steele days of MSNBC for owning a breaking-news story, poop cruise-style.
Before CNN decided to jump head-first into the cruise news, O'Brien herself told The New York Times Magazine's Adam Goldman back in December: "I’m fairly confident that I'm not going to be cooking salmon and doing fashion shows on CNN." What O'Brien didn't say was that that she might not be doing those things at a different network.