Sundays just got a little weird.
There, on the screen, was Christiane Amanpour, in her sort-of-British accent, questioning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with the smooth tenacity that has become her trademark. But the logo on the corner of the TV screen belonged to ABC, not CNN.
It seemed downright unnatural. Even though Amanpour announced way back in March that she was leaving CNN to take over the venerable “This Week” franchise -- following in the footsteps of David Brinkley, Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts – watching her debut Sunday was still a bit jarring for this CNN alum.
This was a watershed moment in the history of the struggling cable network – perhaps the most visible sign yet of just how far CNN’s stature has diminished.
Amanpour was a CNN “lifer,” starting as a low-level assistant 27 years ago and working her way up to chief international correspondent. Her star power and journalistic credentials could have landed her a lucrative gig with one of the major broadcast networks years ago, but she loyally stuck with CNN through ratings woes and quixotic changes of direction.
Until now, the network had gone to extraordinary lengths to keep Amanpour on board and happy, with a broadcast-level salary and a dispensation to moonlight at “60 Minutes.” Last September, her long-term tenure at CNN seemed secure after she was given her own interview program, which showcased her ability to snag high-profile newsmakers, including a memorable tangle with Zimbabwe’s tyrant-in-chief, Robert Mugabe.
Yet, by moving from CNN to ABC, Amanpour will increase her audience 20-fold, which is a tantalizing prospect for a TV journalist of her caliber and ambition. And this time around, when ABC came calling, CNN couldn’t find a way to keep her from jumping ship, as it had so many times in the past.
Losing Amanpour was a body blow to CNN’s journalistic bona fides, especially internationally. And Sundays are going to seem weird, at least for a while.