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CNN’s Zahn is trading dayparts

Channel in house-cleaning mode

WASHINGTON — Trying to recover from an identity crisis, CNN announced a number of major lineup changes Tuesday that will put Paula Zahn in the primetime limelight and bump back the net’s signature political shout-down.

Zahn will leave the net’s ayem “American Morning” show to anchor the new “American Evening,” a two-hour news show that will air 7-9 p.m. EDT.

To make way for the unusually long evening newscast show, CNN is shaving a half-hour from “Crossfire” and moving the show to 4:30 from 7 p.m. EDT.

For any number of reasons, CNN is in the house-cleaning mode, not the least of which is Fox News Channel’s continued domination. The shift commenced with the recent departure of short-lived CNN topper Walter Isaacson.

Several weeks ago, Connie Chung — who was brought on board by Isaacson — opted to leave the net after her 8 p.m. EDT interview show was abruptly canceled.

CNN exec veep Teya Ryan outlined details of Tuesday’s announcement in a memo to staff.

“This will be a destination news program, developed over time, that will take full advantage of CNN’s domestic and international resources, and anchored by one of the most savvy and thoughtful news anchors in the business,” Ryan said.

Ryan said in her memo that “Crossfire” has been an “important and vital part of our network for many years and will continue to be the model for all other political debate shows.”

The “Crossfire” staff will remain intact, with Sam Fesit remaining exec editor. Also, Ryan has assured the show’s anchors that their roles are valued, whether on the show or on other CNN programming, particularly as next year’s presidential election heats up.

“Inside Politics” with CNN’s Judy Woodruff also will be shortened to half-an-hour, running from 4-4:30 p.m. EDT. The previously hourlong show will be renamed “Judy Woodruff’s Inside Politics.

Woodruff will anchor the 3-4 p.m. EST slot, a frame recently left empty when “Talk Back Live” was canceled.

In what was clearly a test run, Zahn has been pulling double duty since March 31, anchoring the 8 p.m. EDT slot, as well as performing her morning duties.

The impact of Zahn’s move to primetime on CNN evening anchor Aaron Brown is unclear. Brown, who heads up the 10 p.m.- to 1 a.m. EDT slot, is considered the net’s lead anchor.

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