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TV/radio briefs: WGCL's Cris Martinez out, CNN morning show, Soledad O'Brien, Nick Cellini

Cris Martinez

CBS Atlanta confirmed to me that it has not renewed meteorologist Cris Martinez' contract after he spent four years at the station.

I was given no reason why and haven't been able to reach Martinez for comment.

This comes on the heels of anchor Jaquitta Williams leaving last month.

The station recently added a new general manager nine months ago (Trey Fabacher) and a new news director (Lane Michaelsen) four months ago so changes are inevitable.

Martinez, a Texas native, has been a weekend late afternoon and evening weather guy with previous TV jojbs in Texas and Florida.

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Nick Cellini and the 790/The Zone Mayhem in the AM crew did some sort of fake gag call featuring a fake Steve Gleason, a former New Orleans Saints players show has ALS.  

I didn't hear the bit and don't know the details, but some folks have been circulating complaint Tweets and blog comments about it because they felt it was insulting.

Cellini just sent out a Tweet apology.


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Atlanta-based CNN launched its "New Day" morning show today featuring Kate Bolduan, Chris Cuomo and news reader Michaela Pereira.

"Just when I thought it couldn’t get more exciting, you hear James Earl Jones saying your name,” Cuomo said at the top of the show.

The network has never put together a truly successful morning show.  This is Jeff Zucker's first big move as president of CNN. As a producer at NBC's "Today Show," he helped guide that show to the top, working magic with Matt Lauer and Katie Couric. So he is taking special care to see if he can repeat that formular two decades later with this new trio.

The show has a harder-news edge than 'Today" or "Good Morning America." They opened about a CNN poll showing Pres. Obama's slipping poll ratings using John King for expert analysis. Later, the show talked about the Russian president accused of stealing a Super Bowl ring and featured an interview with Rep. Jim Cantor. But it's more casual than previous CNN efforts. Bolduan made a perky morning presence today, referencing Journey's  "Don't Stop Believin' " within 15 minutes of the opening bell.

TVNewser said to expect more of the CNN big guns to appear on the morning show, including Fareed Zakaria, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Wolf Blitzer, Jake Tapper and Rachel Nichols.

The trio also spent a weekend together to get to know each other in a segment that featured target practice and fishing. (See! They're Middle America!")

Executive producer Jim Murphy told USA Today: "It's a morning news program... we have the resources to cover everything and be everywhere, all the time," but high jinks will take a back seat on the set. "You won't see cooking and dancing and things like that."

The morning opportunity, Cuomo told the same paper, is that "we can do more and better" than cable rivals by presenting news that's "divorced from cynicism that you see from the partisanship mind-set. We don't have to be locked into party positions; we can be locked into populist positions."

The previous incarnation "Starting Point" with Soledad O'Brien drew only an average of 331,000 viewers, less than sister station HLN's "Morning Express," MSN's "Morning Joe" and well behind Fox's 'Fox & Friends."

So there isn't much place to go but up.

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Speaking of O'Brien, she was in Atlanta Friday to receive an Urban League of Greater Atlanta award for her work and coverage of the African-American community, including her lauded "Black in America' series on CNN.

O'Brien recently left CNN after a decade to start her own production company. (She was cut from the morning show and CNN had cut back its in-house documentary operations.)

I spoke with her briefly during a press conference.

She had just signed on to do correspondence work with "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" on HBO. She said there are plenty of points where life and sports intersect. For instance, her first report will feature Iraq veterans who use mixed martial arts to readjust to regular life. "It recreates a sense of camaraderie people  in military miss when they come back," she said, "plus the physical exertion helps them get back on track."

She remembers working as a low-level producer at NBC News in the 1990s and crossing paths with Gumbel. "He was widely considered one of the toughest interviewers around," she said. "I want to be around people who are smart and successful and aggressive and push for quality."

O'Brien isn't bitter about leaving CNN.

"I'm not much of a look-back person," she said. "I'm a big believer in picking your opportunities and moving ahead. Life is about phases and moving on. I spent 16 years at NBC. One day, I packed up and went to CNN. I had a fantastic career at CNN. Now it's time to move on... It feels natural to me, not wistful."

She said being her own boss "is incredibly freeing. I'm a CEO. I have a different mindset. The model seems to be a model that makes sense. American is becoming more brown. There are stories people want to hear. We need to find platforms to tell those stories. There are people who cover Kim Kardashian. I'm excited for her pregnancy. I don't have to do that. Let someone else do that. I focus on poverty, the disappearing middle class, those types of stories."

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