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BizReport : Internet : June 08, 2001

Exclusive Interview with Lou Dobbs, anchor & managing editor of CNN’s Moneyline

The return of Lou Dobbs to CNN’s “Moneyline” was more than just a homecoming. To CNN, which has watched Moneyline’s ratings plummet in Dobbs’ absence, it has been nothing short of a renaissance in progress. The publicity machine started cranking almost as soon as he signed on the dotted line and, since then, has focused on winning back viewers who began straying after Dobbs left two years ago to run Internet startup

by Michael Grebb, Special Correspondent

In his first three weeks back, Dobbs has bagged a number of high-profile guests, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Vice President Dick Cheney, venture capitalist John Doerr, Hewlett-Packard’s Carly Fiorina,’s Jeff Bezos, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Disney’s Michael Eisner—just to name a few.

Dobbs was one of the original founders of CNN in 1980, eventually rising to executive vice president of the network and overseeing the launch of CNNfn in 1995 (He was CNNfn’s president before leaving in 1999). But as someone who left “old media” to launch a “new media” company—and then came back, Dobbs has a unique perspective the ups and downs of the Internet economy. He was kind enough to take some time out of his schedule to give his take on broadcast news, Wall Street’s perception of dot-coms, and even whether he would consider leaving CNN again.

MG: So here’s the big question: How many interviews with people like me have you had to do since you got back to CNN?

LD: (Laughs) I lost track after the first couple of days. But it’s been a lot of fun.

MG: How does it feel to be back in the broadcast news seat after two years at an Internet startup? Has it been an adjustment or just like riding a bike?

LD: The truth is it’s not quite like riding a bike. I guess the best way to describe it is that it’s totally re-orienting--sitting down at that anchor desk and dealing with all of the variety of people talking with you and working with you. People forget what an inter-dependent business television news is. They see an anchor, but the anchor is relying on directors and producers and executive producers and writers and camera people and sound people and floor managers. So it’s extraordinary.

MG: I imagine so. Is it more complicated than running a dot-com?

LD: Well, certainly for that one hour a day, it’s a very complex undertaking.

MG: A lot of people may think that you’ve actually left, but in fact you’re still quite involved, correct?

LD: I’m a member of the board, so I’ve retained my equity interest, and I still work editorially with the business.

MG: So you no longer have an operational role?

LD: Well, I’m in charge of the broadcast and the people who put it together as managing editor. So in that sense, I still have a slight management responsibility—“slight” compared to running or running the CNN financial news division. And frankly, it’s a great luxury and great fun to be able to focus entirely on one hour of broadcasting each day.

MG: Why return to CNN in the first place? What was behind the decision?

LD: As for the timing… Well, as you know, I have turned down the opportunity to return to CNN before.

MG: Right. And now the dot-com sector is in a malaise.

LD: Well, is in good financial shape. It has two profitable business units. But like everyone else, while the Web site’s traffic continues to grow, there’s no question we’re in an advertising slump. But the overall business is in very good shape, and we have a strong management team there. John Ferrara is CEO. But I was made a financial offer and the opportunity to help restore a broadcast I helped build over twenty years ago. And it was just irresistible.

MG: An offer you couldn’t refuse.

LD: Exactly.

MG: Why then do you think Wall Street has turned on the Internet. Is it just the advertising slump?

LD: Well, the advertising slump obviously is not only for Web sites or the Internet, but for every medium. This is a profound slump in advertising, and it’s effecting every business and medium. In fact, one could argue that the Internet has been affected less than some of the more traditional media.

MG: Really? You wouldn’t know it by looking at Internet stock prices. If it’s just as bad everywhere else, why do you think the dot-coms are getting hit the hardest on Wall Street?

LD: Because many of these Internet businesses simply are not profitable and still have to demonstrate that their models work on a classic level.

MG: So when you combine that with the advertising slump, you get a double-whammy of sorts.

LD: Definitely.

MG: You seem to be happy back at the network you helped create. Do you ever think you’d consider leaving CNN again to join a dot-com?

LD: I think history has demonstrated that you never say never, but I am absolutely thrilled to be here and excited to rebuild the broadcast to the levels we all want it to be at.

Tags: CNN,

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  • Susan DiPilla


    Two simple words from my heart, thank you. I hope the dumb asses in our government were watching your town meeting. You did more for awareness tonight than George W Bush has done in his lifetime.



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