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Prime time toll: Jon Klein out in CNN shakeup

The lack of ratings and focus in CNN's prime-time schedule finally took its toll, with the struggling cable channel announcing Friday that Jon Klein is out as president of CNN/U.S.

Ken Jautz moves over from HLN to to lead the network as executive vice president.

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Klein should be celebrated for trying as long as he did to present news in what he referred to as a "down the middle" manner. He seemed to have given up on that long-held value in recent months with some of the moves he made in hiring Eliot Spitzer and Piers Morgan and showcasing the likes of Rick Sanchez. (I wonder now to what extent he was still calling the shots on those moves and hires.)

But as troubled as CNN has become in prime time the last year, I think we should all remember the good work he did when he took over six years ago in trying to pull CNN away from the heated partisan role playing of "Crossfire." I am going to think about this a bit and try to do some reporting with folks who know what happened behind the scenes before getting cosmic about what Klein's departure does or doesn't mean for the future of reliable news and information on 24/7 cable TV.

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I suspected this was going to happen when about a month ago Klein was not available for an interview in connection with a profile I was writing of Wolf Blitzer. I didn't think it would come now in the heat of the mid-term election coverage. But if the franchise is in trouble, why wait, I guess.

Click ahead for the memo from Jim Walton, president CNN Worldwide, announcing Klein's departure and the new management structure. I also did the conference call with Walton and have some of his words from that session. He makes a couple of key points about why the move was made now and the limited role CNN/U.S. prime-time revenue plays in CNN's overall financial picture.

(Photo Jim Walton courtesy of CNN)

I wonder what this means for the future of "Parker/Spitzer," which launches on Oct. 4 with lots of bad publicity already.

In a conference call Friday, Walton said the moves were made now in part so that they would not serve as a "disruption" once the "new programs" were launched.

Walton said only 10 percent of CNN's profits come from prime-time U.S. revenues. I made this point (without the 10 percent figure which I cannot confirm independently) on Howard Kurtz's "Reliable Sources" show a few months back -- saying that because CNN has a different economic model driven by its international dominance, losing in prime time U.S. was not the disaster it would be for, say, Fox News. It is an important to remember that in keeping this shakeup in context.

Also pay attention in the memo to the yet to be named executive vice president/managing editor job Walton describes. This could be one of the most important positions in American journalism.

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