CNN is closing doors forever at major office location

You’ll hear it soon: CNN has left the building.

The network can no longer afford to be at Atlanta’s landmark CNN Center.

Instead, after more than 35 years, CNN operations are returning to where they began in 1980, at Techwood Turner Broadcasting’s Midtown Atlanta campus.

There, Ted Turner, an unconventional guy who had inherited a fortune from his father’s outdoor advertising, co-founded a then-unique idea: 24/7 cable news shows.

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But guaranteed stable revenues from cable subscriptions, coupled with advertising sales and growing viewership, allowed CNN to make its mark.

By 1987, the network had thrived to occupy and dominate what became known as the Omni Center, which was built in 1976 and was mostly vacant when Turner and his crew moved in.

And what a place!

A huge atrium welcomed visitors for shopping, dining and tours of the CNN broadcast facilities.

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The atrium housed a theater that continuously screened the 1939 Atlanta classic Gone With the Wind. Turner had recently purchased the rights to this film and other classics from Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios, and this marked the birth of what would become the Turner Classic Movies network.

The CNN Center became one of Atlanta’s top tourist attractions before the College Football Hall of Fame, the World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Aquarium and Centennial Olympic Park came into the neighborhood Constitution of the Atlanta Journal.

“This building and property is part of the Atlanta postcard,” said AJ Robinson, President of Central Atlanta Progress. “Ted built an entire industry here and helped build the city’s international status.”

In fact, shortly after the CNN Center opened, I was involved with a friend in producing a promotional video for Atlanta area real estate. We learned that the CNN Center was a place to film as it was an exciting new city hotspot.

On a private tour of the CNN television facilities, I was told that the station’s Atlanta location gave it an editorial bias that differed from the predominantly liberal presentation of news from media on the New York-Washington axis.


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We all know how that ended and how CNN went on to have names like Rush Limbaugh’s “Clinton News Network” and another, harsher name: “Communist News Network,” followed by the decline in viewership.

But CNN’s beginnings were reflected in the channel’s credible CNN centerpiece, worldwide reach, and general acceptance following its continuous coverage of the 1991 Gulf War.

Having a captive audience in front of single-channel airport TVs didn’t hurt.

CNN Center was a reflection of Turner’s showmanship. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recalled how the network’s afternoon talk show, Talkback Live, was created in the building’s atrium from 1994 to 2003.

“Putting Talkback Live in the goldfish bowl in the center of the atrium was clearly a stupid idea,” said the program’s first host, Susan Rook.

“Sometimes it was amazing, sometimes messy, and sometimes a mind-boggling ‘What?’

“I felt like I was always on the creative edge,” said Rook, who was on the program from 1994-1997.

The worldwide reach of the network and the simple CNN logo on the building created the concept of the “Postcard of Atlanta” and brought the city international fame.

Former CNN President Tom Johnson described himself as “heartbroken” at the channel’s departure from the CNN Center.

“So many of my friends tell me how much they are going to miss that wonderful CNN logo on the CNN Center,” Johnson said. “It just meant so much to us.”

Leaving the CNN Center came as a shock to some of the station’s employees. Former executive producer Tenisha Tidwell described it as getting a call “and finding out your parents are selling grandma’s house.

“No! You don’t sell grandma’s house! I had so many memories there, the laughter, the people,” she said.

So what happened? Why no more CNN at the CNN Center?

There are several reasons. For one, CNN operations in Atlanta have moved away, according to the Journal-Constitution. They are now in the elite coastal axis I mentioned earlier, with network headquarters now in New York.

To cut costs, AT&T, until last year CNN’s parent company, sold the CNN Center in 2021 to two Florida real estate companies: CP Group and Rialto Capital Management.

The pandemic also diluted demand for office space in downtown Atlanta, the Journal-Constitution said.

Then there’s CNN itself. It’s no longer the glamor kid of the Turner years (Turner Broadcasting sold it to Time Warner in 1996).

Its apparent left-leaning bias is apparently hurting ratings, and despite attempts to adjust programming, CNN is a far cry from Fox, the cable news ratings leader.

It’s difficult for a news network to explain the drop in ratings in an election year like 2022. And CNN veterans are getting out, too.

The excitement around the CNN Center has died down for some time, the future of the building is unknown, the network itself is a mess.

Atlanta’s skyline is changing with the loss of the bright CNN logo, which marks a dimension of the city’s place in the world.

But I imagine the CNN name will stick in the minds of many in Atlanta when they talk about the building that used to house the network.

It’s like Chicagoans still call the Willis Building on the west side of the Loop what it was lost in 2009. For them, it’s still Sears Tower. CNN is closing doors forever at major office location

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