Tina Brown is planning to launch an online talk show for The Daily Beast, according to former Newsweek staffers apprised of the company’s plans. The Newsweek Daily Beast company recently hired several network television producers, including Kathy O’Hearn, who ditched an executive producer position at CNN almost immediately postmerger, and Susie Banikarim, poached from Diane Sawyer.
Ms. O’Hearn was the executive producer and creator of Topic [A], Ms. Brown’s last foray into televised talk, launched after Hearst shut down Ms. Brown’s Talk magazine. According to a television source, it was Ms. Brown herself who pulled the plug on the Sunday night CNBC show, in order to meet the deadline for her Princess Diana biography and because CNBC’s investment—the show aired after a block of infomercials—didn’t match her editorial ambitions.
The new project will have “at least some chat show material,” said a former staffer; another said it would be employ a format similar to The View.
“It’s not like they’re trying to redo Topic [A], but they’re aware that they need to be a multimedia presence, and Kathy has the expertise to do it,” said a source who is familiar with the new operations. She said the show would take the form of one-off webisodes, such as webcast Q&As from events like the Women in the World Summit, which Ms. O’Hearn was instrumental in planning.
“It would be good for them to have the resources to do it in-house rather than having to wait for Tina to be booked by CNN,” she added.
A television presence would be symbolic step in Ms. Brown’s comeback. Her career has had some ups and downs (in case you hadn’t read about it, oh, everywhere) but somehow her scrappy news website, named for Evelyn Waugh’s fictional Fleet Street paper, has led her back into the familiar worlds of glossy magazines and now TV talk.
Practically speaking, a talk show would be a major departure from the Daily Beast’s current video offerings, which consist of clips pulled from various news shows previously aired on cable and network television.
But Newsweek Daily Beast representative Andrew Kirk said the parent company IAC’s Frank Gehry-designed digs will be well-equipped for it once the new studio is complete.
“We have a number of original video projects evolving for The Daily Beast,” he wrote in an email, “and we’ll have the ability to do live network and cable news spots in our redesigned Newsweek Daily Beast office space.”
“Chat show material” would be also be a far cry from Newsweek’s video content, which included original interviews, short documentaries, and animation. But never mind that! Beginning Tuesday, Newsweek.com was reportedly scheduled to begin redirecting to DailyBeast.com. (As of press time, Newsweek.com endured. The Daily Beast did not respond to a request for comment.)
Former Newsweek editor Mark Coatney, now in charge of Tumblr media relations, criticized the decision on (what else?) his Tumblr, citing the strength of the Newsweek brand, its healthy traffic and the havoc the move would wreak on its searchability.
He got sentimental about the content, too.
“Newsweek.com at its best, especially when Deirdre Depke and Tom Watson ran it, was a really great read, full of stories and photos you wouldn’t find anywhere else, and done with a nice dose of wit and style,” he told Off the Record in an e-mail.
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