CNN’s Jonathan Klein on Campbell Brown, Couch Potatoes and Plans for 2008

“The one thing [the latter two types of viewers] have in common is a desire to hear a wide range of opinions,” said Mr. Klein.

Speaking to NYTV, Mr. Klein elaborated on his programming philosophy. He said his vision had been shaped, in part, years ago when he worked alongside legendary producer Don Hewitt at CBS. “He had very passionate, larger-than-life journalists,” recalled Mr. Klein, referring to the likes of Ed Bradley and Mike Wallace. “He said his main goal was to choose from the best stories and get out of the way. That was his trick.”

In recent years, Mr. Klein has applied his faith in Mr. Hewitt’s model of charismatic journalists chasing their passions both to CNN’s prime time shows (see Dobbs, Lou, and his nightly discourses on immigration) and to its documentary unit. Mr. Klein said that when he arrived at CNN in November 2004, he discovered a documentary team focused primarily on “arcane” subject matter.

Under Mr. Klein’s direction, CNN documentaries have married high-profile CNN reporters with equally high-profile subjects—Christiane Amanpour and religious fundamentalism, Campbell Brown and political attack ads, Anderson Cooper and the environment. Mr. Klein said he encourages his reporters to draw conclusions in their documentaries—an upshot of which, he acknowledged, is that CNN docs increasingly “step on some vested interests, and they do respond.”

Sure enough, over the past year, CNN documentaries have riled up everyone from media watchdog types to conservative political operatives to MSNBC’s Dan Abrams to professional wrestlers. Mr. Klein suggested that he wouldn’t shy away from the hostile attention in the years to come—and suggested it probably does the network as much good as harm.

“What I love is when our competitors then turn that into segments on their shows,” said Mr. Klein. “They have nothing else to talk about other than who has CNN pissed off today. That’s great. We’ll provide fodder for their programming, as long as they get our initials right.”