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Reese Schonfeld (1931–2020), cofounder of CNN and Food Network

by Linnea Crowther

Reese Schonfeld was the cofounder and first president of CNN, later going on to cofound Food Network.

Creating cable news

Trained as a lawyer, Schonfeld never practiced. Instead, he got his start working in newsreels with United Press Movietone News, then founded the Independent Television News Association to provide news footage to TV stations. Ted Turner found Schonfeld there in 1979, asking him to help start a 24-hour news channel. The two launched CNN in 1980 with Schonfeld as its first president, developing programming and hiring commentators including Daniel Schorr (1916 – 2010) and Pat Buchanan. Turner fired Schonfeld after two years, and in 1993, he cofounded Food Network and became its first president. In later years, Schonfeld was outspoken against the direction CNN had taken, criticizing its focus on personalities.

Schonfeld on CNN

“CNN — to me it’s a dream aborted. I see a legacy of what might have been. Hopefully, someone else will be able to pick up and build another news network that will lead more toward ‘randomonium,’ more toward content over construction.” —from a 2005 interview with the Television Academy


What people said about him

Full obituary: The New York Times

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