Friday, May 30, 2008
Gone Barby Gone
As promised, a few of the details and some thoughts on the firing of Barb Simon -- second-in-command at CNN's American Morning and one of my former supervisors.
Basically, here's what happened from what I can gather: Early last Thursday morning, Barb Simon showed up to work and was told that her services would no longer be required at CNN. Her abrupt exit was facilitated by a mercenarian, Agent Smith-like hatchet man named, ominously enough, Bart; he's a guy who was apparently brought in by CNN U.S. President and perpetual part-of-the-problem Jon Klein immediately after the firing of AM Executive Producer Ed Litvak last February (How To Lose a Job in 13 Days?/2.25.08), ostensibly to clean up the mess the show had become. Once Bart arrived on the scene following Ed's deparature, he was essentially in charge -- quietly laying down the law, keeping things in line and attempting to put the daily broadcast back on the rails. A talented senior producer named Janelle Rodriguez was culled from The Situation Room and officially named American Morning's new EP on April 16th. Basically, Barb had been a lame duck since the man who hired her and had coordinated with her in running the damn show into the ground -- Ed -- had been sent packing, and after Janelle's appointment, Barb became all but persona non grata around the office. It was always a matter of time before she was given her walking papers.
From what I hear, Janelle's doing a spectacular job, which I commend her on; I've mentioned more than a few times that I bear little in the way of ill will against most of the good folks on the CNN production staff. What actually is worth pointing out, though, is the reality behind Jon Klein's sudden call to "The Wolf" (Bart: "Okay Jon, so you've got a flagship show, minus a manager, stuck way behind Fox & Friends -- I'll take care of it."). It's classic Klein, really: Rather than do the dirty work himself, he surreptitiously brings in a lackey who can not only play Bad Cop all the way around, but who also serves to insulate him from any sort of accountability should things somehow go from bad to worse. The problem with American Morning has always been the same problem confronting the rest of the network: Klein stands over the shoulders of many of his managers, playing puppet-master, then conveniently retreats to his office to dole out pink slips when his ideas or instructions bear little -- or outright rotten -- fruit. This is largely why Ed Litvak is out of a job (although in the network's defense, he was a painfully bad manager when it came to dealing with people). As Barb served little purpose other than to back up Ed's actions -- well, that and to hack apart perfectly good scripts and salivate over any story having to do with Britney Spears -- she's now out of a job as well.
Of course, I have no doubt that they're both continuing to collect very hefty paychecks until the official end of their respective contracts. But at least the show might finally be heading in the right direction after years of mismanagement (before Ed Litvak, there was EP Kim Bondy, who was known more for the inordinate amount of time she spent on vacation and her affinity for Jimmy Choo shoes than anything else).
With Jon Klein still in charge at the top though, who the hell knows.
I'd say "stay tuned," but I'm not sure it's worth it either way.
(All About Ed/2.27.08)
(Say What You Will/2.18.08)