Network rolls out first awards show

At Gotham’s Museum of Natural History, CNN rolled out its inaugural red carpet on Thursday night with “CNN Heroes,” the net’s first awards show. CNN Worldwide prexy Jim Walton said that the net was definitely planning on reprising “Heroes” next year, although he said he wasn’t sure what form it would take.

“The reason that we’re moving in the direction that we are is not to become advocates, but to illustrate and to highlight,” said Walton of the show. The “Heroes” awards show played more like philanthropy than news, with celebs like Harry Connick Jr. presenting awards to recipients like Peter Kithene of Seattle, who runs a medical clinic on the edge of Lake Victoria in a town called Muhuru.

Walton said that the initiative came from a brainstorming session over how to connect with the public via the web. The finished “Heroes”

product allowed web nominators to suggest about 7,000 heroes of one variety or another, whom CNN vetted before a panel that included Deepak Chopra, Peter Gabriel, and TD Jakes.

“Heroes” puts CNN in a unique position as arbiters of virtue as well as the news. Walton plays down the activism angle, but suggests that the good done by the net’s recognition of people like Kithene will outweigh its inevitable criticism. “Anything this subjective, by definition, has questions around it, but those who want to look for the good in what we’ve done will find it. Those who want to question will find things to question.”

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