New York CNN has hired Connie Chung away from ABC News to be the anchor of a nightly news show, ratcheting up the stakes in a heated competition among cable news networks.
Chung's hiring is the splashiest move yet by CNN in its ongoing war with Fox News Channel, which has made inroads against CNN's former monopoly in cable news mostly through its lineup of colorful prime-time talk shows.
Earlier this month, Fox News Channel poached CNN's Greta Van Susteren to be host of a 9 p.m. CST news show, opening a hole in CNN's lineup at 7 p.m., when Van Susteren had worked. Chung is expected to take that prime-time slot.
"Connie has been a valued member of the ABC News family," said ABC News President David Westin. "This is a very important opportunity for her to have her own program. We wish her nothing but great success and happiness in her new job."
At ABC, Chung landed the most high-profile interview in the pre-terrorist attack world last year, a prime-time chat with Gary Condit. While the congressman who was embroiled in the story of government intern Chandra Levy's disappearance revealed little, Chung's performance generally drew positive reviews.
Chung was usually third in the pecking order behind Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer among ABC News employees who sought big interviews. At a time when budgets are becoming tight, the CNN job enabled ABC to lose a big salary. She had a year to go on her ABC contract.
Chung is a veteran newscaster who has worked primarily in newsmagazines over the past decade. She had an ill-fated pairing with Dan Rather on the "CBS Evening News" that ended in 1995.
She'll compete against Fox's highest-rated talk show host, Bill O'Reilly.
"We have profound respect for Connie Chung as a journalist and we wish her well," said Fox News Channel spokesman Brian Lewis.
Under new management the past year, CNN has sought to cultivate a "star system" of personalities to undercut a bland image. It heavily promotes morning show anchor Paula Zahn and evening anchor Aaron Brown.
In the past month, CNN has hired former MTV personality Serena Altschul, much-traveled sportscaster Keith Olbermann and Anderson Cooper, a former ABC newsman who was host of "The Mole."