CNN has made it official. Veteran British journalist turned media personality Piers Morgan will host a new interview program launching in January 2011 at 9:00 pm ET/PT following the retirement of Larry King.
Rumors had been floating for some time that CNN was wooing Morgan, best known in the US as one of the judges on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” He was not the first choice of King, who had suggested Ryan Seacrest to be his successor.
Morgan has had a long career in journalism in the United Kingdom as a newspaper editor and, more recently, as the host of the popular television interview program “Piers Morgan’s Life Stories” on ITV.
“Piers has made his name posing tough questions to public figures, holding them accountable for their words and deeds,” said Jon Klein, President of CNN/US. “He is able to look at all aspects of the news with style and humor with an occasional good laugh in the process. He is a natural fit with Anderson Cooper, Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker in our prime time line up, and the ideal choice to update the storied tradition of newsmaker talk on CNN.”
Morgan began his career as a reporter for The Wimbledon News and then as a columnist at The Sun, the News Corporation tabloid which is the #1 newspaper in the UK in terms of circulation. In 1994, when Morgan was 28 years old, Rupert Murdoch appointed him the youngest ever editor of the News of the World, another News Corp. tabloid, and the youngest national newspaper editor in Britain for 50 years. Two years later he moved to the rival Daily Mirror, where he served as editor-in-chief from 1995 until 2004. The paper won numerous journalistic awards including Newspaper of the Year at the prestigious British Press Awards in 2002 for its coverage of the 9/11 terrorist atrocity in New York.
However, Morgan was fired in May 2004 after authorizing the publication of what turned out to be fake photos of British troops abusing Iraqi prisoners. After his controversial departure from the Mirror, Morgan went on to become a best-selling author, a regular media columnist, and host of his own interview programs on the BBC and ITV, as well as appear as a judge alongside Simon Cowell on the #1-rated show “Britain’s Got Talent.” Cowell then selected Morgan to be a judge on the US version, where Cowell himself was barred from appearing by his contract to be a judge on Fox’s “American Idol.”
“I am thrilled to be joining CNN, and very much looking forward to bringing my own style of interviewing to the world’s biggest, and best, TV news organization,” said Morgan. “As a young journalist in Britain, I watched CNN’s astonishing live coverage of the 1991 Gulf War, and felt enthralled by the courage and brilliance of the journalists involved in that coverage. Years later, I watched Anderson Cooper’s visceral reports from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and felt equally enthralled by his passionate and relentless search for the truth. Perhaps most pertinently, I have watched Larry King Live for much of the last 25 years, and dreamed of one day filling the legendary suspenders of the man I consider to be the greatest TV interviewer of them all. To now have the chance to work with Larry and Anderson, and to try and continue the outstanding journalistic legacy created by them, and so many others at CNN, is both a great honor, and a great challenge,” he said.
In addition to airing weeknights at 9:00 pm ET/PT on CNN in the US, Morgan’s new show will air worldwide on CNN International in more than 200 countries.
Morgan will continue to write his two regular columns for the UK’s Mail on Sunday newspaper – one on sports, the other a weekly diary of his life – and he will also provide regular columns to CNN.com. He will be based in New York, and also work from Los Angeles and London.
RBR-TVBR observation: This is what Piers Morgan does best, although we Americans don’t have a real feel for his journalistic talents based on only watching him judge a talent contest. It should be interesting to see him digging for answers from newsmakers. Don’t expect the softball questions that Larry King has been known for.