CNN hails new chief at D.C. bureau

News net ups Bohrman to replace Kross

NEW YORK — Albeit without the Howard Dean screech, ratings-challenged CNN on Friday ordered another dramatic course change that includes putting a new face in charge of all election-year coverage and Washington news.

In a lengthy staff memo, newly installed CNN programming topper Princell Hair announced that “NewsNight With Aaron Brown” senior exec producer David Bohrman is replacing Kathryn Kross as Washington bureau chief. The job is being expanded, with all Washington-based political shows now reporting to him.

A CNN spokesman said the net is in talks with Kross about her future with the net.

Promotion is a triumph for Bohrman, who was shown the door at CNN in 1999 after being booted from CNNfn, where he worked on Lou Dobbs’ “Moneyline.” He returned to the news net in the fall of 2001 to produce Brown’s 10 p.m. ET show.

Bohrman’s rise coincides with CNN’s struggle to reform its organizational structure and regain its edge. It was during the 2000 presidential race that Fox News Channel began to overtake CNN.

Hair’s memo included a host of changes, including:

  • The net’s 11 U.S. bureaus will stay open, but are being merged into four regions — Northeast, Southeast, Midwest and West (Fox News has the same structure). Each region will have a bureau chief.

  • Steven Robinson, who headed the defunct CNN Sports Illustrated joint venture, will head up a new “futures” unit.

“This unit is a critical companion to our breaking news efforts, and I will be looking for story pitches to be coming from every corner of the network,” Hair said in his memo.

“Reporters, producers and crews in the field — working through the national desk — will now be accountable to produce those ideas, and the pieces that follow, that will find their way on to our air each and every day. In their new and improved role at this network, these men and women in the field will be heard as equals and held accountable as partners,” Hair wrote.

  • Hair has tapped CNN’s Kim Bondy to head a new features unit, focusing on entertainment news, as well as medical and science/tech stories.

Bohrman, considered both creative and tough by many in the biz, will arrive in Washington at a crucial time. So far this election season, Fox News has been handily beating CNN with its political coverage.

Moreover, CNN recently lost two high-profile Washington correspondents, Kate Snow and Jonathan Karl.

Friday, CNN also announced it has hired former NBC News political correspondent Joe Johns to work in the Washington bureau.

Before coming to CNN in the late 1990s, Bohrman worked for NBC News, where he produced “Imus in the Morning” for cable news net MSNBC. He did a long stint at ABC News, where he worked with Brown in launching “World News Now.” He’s also produced numerous election specials through the years.

Last fall, Bohrman came up with a new format for one of the first 2004 Democratic presidential debates, which was held in Phoenix and sponsored by CNN. He decided to let 40 “undecided” Arizona Democrats ask the candidates unscripted questions.

“I think if you stagnate in the way you cover stories, it just doesn’t work. I think if you can freshen things up, you are ahead of the game,” Bohrman told Daily Variety.

A CNN spokeswoman said no replacement has been named for Bohrman at “NewsNight,” but that a search will soon be underway.

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