CNN’s Jim Acosta Leaves White House Scrum for Weekend News Battle
Jim Acosta's mother recently sent him a text about his first stay as a weekend anchor for CNN. She loved the look on his face, maybe for good reason. "I think my mother hasn't seen my smile on TV in four years," he says.
Wearing a grim face might have been natural. Acosta has been CNN's chief White House correspondent for the past few years. The job is already difficult and usually requires around the clock focus. However, in addition to reporting on the previous administration, Acosta often clashed with President Donald Trump on camera, making more than a few headlines about the network and himself.
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But Trump did not win a new term. And Acosta did.
The CNN veteran last weekend was released on new ground. As part of a revision of some parts of CNN's daily schedule, the network gave Acosta five weekend hours on Saturday and Sunday which it hopes will turn into a place for deeper dives into important stories and lengthy interviews with news veterans, Acosta and Pamela Brown. It's his first leap to be a full-time anchor.
"I try to get the ball up on the weekends, which is difficult sometimes," Acosta said during an interview earlier this week. Some people have viewed him as confrontational in the past, he admits, but he sees himself as a "tough news guy". I like when things are covered like this. I've been aggressive about the White House and will aggressively try to anchor the news on the weekends. "
Acosta is the latest in a parade of news workers who are very closely connected to certain headlines and then have to work on pushing new boundaries. He was at the center of a historic clash between the White House and one of the largest outlets that cover it. President Trump mocked CNN on camera many times after Acosta asked him questions, and the White House attempted to take away the correspondent's press card and started a landmark court case in which the WarnerMedia-backed news agency is on trial for the Trump administration brought - and prevailed.
"We had no choice but to stand up for ourselves," says Acosta of the White House Press Corps during Trump's tenure, adding, "I think we were put in a position we didn't want to be in, but I think it was the right decision. "
Being at the center of such an intense news cycle brings on-air journalists new visibility and sometimes new opportunities. A young MSNBC correspondent named Ashleigh Banfield became heavily involved in reporting on New York after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and soon began traveling the world on behalf of the network. Arthur Kent's coverage of the Persian Gulf War for NBC News earned him the colorful "Scud Stud" sobriquet. Wolf Blitzer was best known for his time recording the Gulf War in Kuwait for CNN, which helped build a lasting career on the network.
However, the message cycle is never fixed to a single moment. After all, a journalist has to move on to other stories.
"It was a surreal experience," says Acosta of the job he has just left. “Your family is worried about you. Your friends care about you. I worry about my co-workers who are all going through this. But I'm ready to turn the page, and I think there's something to be said for being stronger on the broken places. "
He plans to use his recent past to expand his present. “I told one of our executives that my best stories are yet to come,” says Acosta. "I don't think the Trump presidency is the defining story of my career."
His first weekend on the air was spent giving viewers the latest information on coronavirus vaccinations and the Derek Chauvin process. He also gave time to correspondent Gary Tuchman, who did an in-depth look at young children who had volunteered for vaccination as part of a more extensive test. "I want to make sure the show is a place where some of the great pieces our correspondents do during the week are shown," says Acosta. “I also enjoy the opportunity to have extra time to tell a story. I think the show will be an exit to that. "
His theory is that weekend viewers are willing to give a little more time to watch and be interested in a 20-minute interview with someone in the headlines. Acosta also intends to address some of the day's bigger issues, including the way disinformation is passed on. the nation's need for new infrastructure; Health care; and immigration. He intends to build his source list from the time he has spent with Obama, Trump and Biden and book some guests himself if warranted. He also wants to examine some of the aftermath of Trump's tenure in office. "The more sunlight we put on these crazy conspiracy theories and malicious efforts to spread disinformation, the better off the public gets," he says.
His time on CNN is not referenced to Saturday and Sunday. Acosta has also been named CNN's lead correspondent and will likely tour the nation later this week.
On his first weekend, he logged off every evening by telling the audience that he was reporting "from Washington". He hopes viewers will continue to see him as a journalist who likes to wear shoe leather. "I want to make sure it's still part of my DNA."
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