Let’s get the mea culpas out of the way. Two hours before the start of the CNN 35th Reunion, my wife and I made a recon run to check out the ballroom to see what kind of atmosphere we’d be walking into, but most importantly, to spy on the food setup to hopefully decipher what the organizers meant by “heavy appetizers.” That would make the difference between sneaking in a quick meal or taking our chances on the spread. There were enough chafing dishes and serving pieces to gamble on the quality and quantity of what they’d offer.
Feeling confident about the location and the expected comestibles we put on our party duds and returned ready to reunion-ize, or reunite, or drink some Reunite on Ice, so nice.
Before we could smudge the wet marker ink on our name tags I heard the call of “Ed!” I always joked to my mother that anyone with gas could yell my name. She always preferred the less acidic “Edward.”
So began almost five memorable hours of answering to the call of my gaseous moniker, hugging talented and beautiful women, and shaking hands and hugging several “in touch with themselves” men with whom I’d been privileged to work at CNN over the course of 20 years.
I really never cared to attend reunions for several reasons. For one, I’m secretly quite shy but work hard to hide it. I was never “one of the guys” who kissed ass and slapped the boss on the back partially because of that affliction and partly, mostly, because I always thought those people were assholes covering up for their lack of talent or skills.
But this was different. I gave it a lot of thought and decided if I’m going to attend a reunion, this would be it.
The word “family” has always been part of the CNN internal lexicon and this night was no different. My time at CNN was up and down and up and up and down and out. But as anyone who worked there for any appreciable amount of time will tell you, while we were reporting on history we knew we were making it with the world’s first 24 hour television news network. Not a day went by you didn’t tell yourself you’re one lucky sonofabitch, even when you were frustrated about one decision or another.
With each “Ed!”. With each handshake or hug, the family connection we built over time was instantly renewed. Despite not having communicated with some former co-workers for 15-20 years, conversation flowed as naturally warmth in a blanket. The connection is that natural.
More than once I heard someone say our time at CNN, its heyday, was “lightning in a bottle.” But it was also thunder that rocked the status quo and changed the news business forever, with the promise to viewers they didn’t have to wait for third party accounts of major events, through live coverage, whenever it happened, they could be witnesses as well and judge things for themselves.
No remarks hit home more than those of the great CNN anchor Bernard Shaw who challenged current employees that if they worked hard enough with enough dedication and skill, they could fill the shoes of those assembled at this reunion. Don’t take that as arrogance or ego. Take that as a blunt and accurate assessment of how far the standards have fallen.
My time at CNN ended on January 23, 2001. Wasn’t my choice. I was a victim, along with hundreds of others, of that awesome merger between AOL and Time Warner. I was told there was no longer a “role” for me. Perhaps. I went on to several wonderful and rewarding jobs since then. But I can tell you, the CNN brand on my resume’ helped open those doors. Why wouldn’t you want to reunite with that, and the peerless people who built the brand’s reputation. My active role in CNN ended in 2001, but CNN will always have a role in my life.
I will say, in closing, the bacon-wrapped scallops were sublime.