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What Do Turner’s Layoffs Mean For Atlanta?

The CNN sign outside of the CNN Center in downtown Atlanta
The CNN sign outside of the CNN Center in downtown Atlanta
Credit Dan Raby / WABE

  Turner Broadcasting has been synonymous with Atlanta for decades, with stations like CNN, HLN and TNT all based here.

But with the announcement of more than 900 job cuts in Atlanta, preceded by plans to move more anchors to New York, what does Turner’s reorganization mean for the area?As heard on the radio

Think back to the summer of 1980.

Georgia’s Jimmy Carter is the U.S. President, the Sun Belt’s population is booming and the South is beginning to shed its civil rights era reputation.

In the midst of all that, Turner Broadcasting launches CNN, the first 24-hour news network.

Hank Klibanoff, head of the journalism program at Emory University and the former managing editor of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, said Turner helped solidify Atlanta as the South’s unofficial capitol.

“Those of us who grew up in the South remember growing up in a time when there were no sports franchises in the south,” he said. “There was nothing in the South that sort of suggested that you would find any sophistication or panache.”

Klibanoff said Turner, and CNN specifically, helped show Atlanta as a city on the move.

“The Democratic Party chose Atlanta for the 1988 national convention knowing that CNN was here, and that its presence wasn’t lost on the Olympic selection committee when it selected Atlanta to host the 1996 Olympics,” he said.

Founder Ted Turner had a vision of making Atlanta another national hub for news to compete with New York City and Washington, D.C. But after Turner Broadcasting was bought by Time-Warner in 1996, gradually many of the network’s big shows some or all of their production to the latter cities.

And this week Turner announced the elimination of nearly 1,500 jobs, almost a thousand of which are in the Atlanta area.

Poynter Institute’s Rick Edmonds said to some extent big layoffs have become the new norm in media, but that Turner’s “long run in Atlanta is sort of more the exception than the rule.”

The latest cuts aren’t just a hit to Atlanta’s economy; Edmonds said they also diminish Atlanta’s standing in the national media scene.

And he said the move to push more of Turner’s production to New York and DC isn’t likely to stop.

“The case for keeping it in Atlanta kind of withers,” he said.

Both Edmonds and Emory’s Klibanoff agree Atlanta’s still a hub for international brands and business, but Turner Broadcasting’s place among those brands, at least here, is fading.