Ashleigh Banfield, the TV-news correspondent who first rose to fame by traveling to global hotspots for MSNBC in the aftermath of 9/11, has a new flashpoint to cover: getting more attention for HLN, the CNN-owned outlet going through transition.
She will take over the slot that has long been occupied by Nancy Grace, the 8 p.m. hour, starting Monday, October 17. Grace had previously announced plans to leave the network, and her last show will air Oct. 13, according to an HLN spokeswoman. Banfield announced the move during her noontime program on CNN, “Legal View,” which she has anchored for about five years.
Like Grace, Banfield will focus on legal matters, but will likely consider a wider selection of topics. Grace built a name for herself with examinations of lurid court matters.
Banfield “will bring her legal experience and views to HLN prime, tackling the day’s most pressing social and legal issues mixed with her own passionate point of view and spirited conversation,” said Ken Jautz, the CNN executive vice president who oversees HLN, in a prepared statement.
Her arrival represents the latest effort to correct a brand drift that had set in at HLN as it jumped around from court coverage to pursuing social-media junkies. At one recent point, HLN was testing everything from running movies to ordering up a game series based on a concept from Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show.
The network , once known as “CNN Headline News,” is pursuing a more traditional bent: aligning itself more closely with CNN while building a new stable of programs that appeal to its core audience, believed to be younger and more female than CNN. Already, the network has extended the news block it has with Robin Meade’s “Morning Express” by enlisting Michaela Pereira, formerly of CNN’s “New Day,” and Erica Hill,” formerly of NBC’s weekend edition of “Today” for daytime programs.
Banfield said Thursday on air that she expected to continue to contribute to CNN legal coverage, and would most likely make appearances on it air. She has served stints at Court TV and ABC News, and the Fox-owned KDFW.
A weekday version of “Inside Politics,” the John King-hosted Sunday half-hour, will take over her CNN time slot through the election. The new hour will be produced by the same team that supervised Banfield’s “Legal View.” There’s precedent for the move: “Inside Politics” ran in the noon hour during both the Republican and Democratic conventions.