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Ex-CNN executive Ed Turner dead at 66

Remembered as the 'newsman's newsman'

Ed Turner  

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Ed Turner, a veteran television executive and one of the founding fathers of CNN, died Saturday evening at the age of 66.

The former CNN executive vice president passed away at George Washington University Hospital in Washington several months after learning he had cancer.

Ted Turner hired Ed -- no relation -- and a small group of other news professionals in 1980 to make around-the-clock television news an engaging and profitable reality. Ed Turner remained at CNN until 1998, when he left his position as vice president in charge of newsgathering.

"It was a crusade, absolutely," Ed Turner once told a magazine at his alma mater, the University of Oklahoma, regarding the network's early days. "No one knew whether it would work, but the challenge was too great not to have a go at it."

Fellow CNN veterans said "E.T.," as he was known, played a vital part in the network's development.

 'No Relation' Turner
John Zarella, CNN's Miami bureau chief, recalled his first meeting with Ed Turner.

"I walked into his office and on his desk, he had matches. And he picked them up, and on these matches it would say, Ed 'No Relation' Turner.

"The first thing I remember (him saying is), 'I'm not related to Ted, here have a book of matches.'"

"You can almost reach out and touch Ed Turner's impact on CNN," said Bernard Shaw, an original CNN anchor who retired last year. "His standards were so high. The things that this network does routinely, and the kinds of people that work for CNN ... are a testament to what Ed Turner stood for."

Before coming to Atlanta, Turner built a solid news staff at WTTG in Washington including several young journalists -- such as Connie Chung, Bob Schieffer and Maury Povich -- before they became household names. There, Turner defied convention and launched the 10 o'clock evening news -- an hour earlier than most late night newscasts.

Turner climbed the television news ladder, serving as Metromedia's corporate news director before joining United Press International Television News.

After UPITN, Turner produced the "CBS Morning News" show and then returned home to work in Oklahoma. In 1980, Ted Turner hired him at CNN.

"More than anything, Ed will be remembered as the newsman's newsman," said former CNN News Group chairman and CEO Tom Johnson. "He could be so tough on his people in his pursuit of getting it right and getting it first, but he could also be a wonderful teacher."

One-time CNN newsgathering chief Cissy Baker, now the Washington bureau chief of Tribune Broadcasting, called Turner "the best newsman I've ever met."

"He always knew what needed to be covered long before anyone else knew," she said.

Turner's innovative approach helped CNN invent itself in the '80s and '90s, as he sent hundreds of journalists around the world. Under his leadership, the network broadcast countless live events, including the billiard room rape case in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the Claus von Bulow trial and the Solidarity uprising in Poland.

His colleagues also remembered his team-oriented approach.

"He regarded everyone who picked up a camera, who edited a piece, who ran an assignment desk, who cut a package, who sound-teched with equal regard," said John Zarrella, CNN's Miami bureau chief. "Everyone was part of the process and without everyone ... that fell apart."




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