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Goodbye CNN Center

The CNN Center from Centennial Olympic Park. (Photo by Kelly Jordan.)

By Guest Columnist MARK ALDREN, a member of the team that launched CNN and past president and current board member of the Atlanta Press Club.

It feels like the loss of an old friend. Although it was common knowledge that the move had been in the works for years, when the official word came that CNN Center would be no more, the news left a pit in my stomach.

I must admit I have great affection for both of CNN’s Atlanta “homes” starting with the original Techwood location where Ted Turner launched Cable News Network in 1980. At that time, skeptics were calling CNN the Chicken Noodle Network and predicting it would meet a quick demise. Instead, it revolutionized broadcast journalism.

After serving on the team that successfully launched CNN, Aldren went on to work with the local Atlanta news departments of WXIA-TV and WGNX-TV. Aldren returned to CNN International in 2008 and served there for 11 years as senior copy editor before accepting a buyout from AT&T in the summer of 2019. Aldren is a past president and current board member of the Atlanta Press Club.

CNN began with a total of just 243 people networkwide. As CNN grew, Turner realized his Atlanta headquarters needed additional space. In 1987, he took great delight in announcing the move downtown to a building known as the Omni Complex. The Omni had briefly housed a quirky indoor amusement park, “The World of Sid and Marty Krofft” and an ice-skating rink. Ted was so filled with glee in making his announcement, he briefly belted out a few lines from Petula Clark’s hit song, “Downtown.” City leaders were ecstatic. Tony Bennett clearly had nothing to worry about.

Over the next three decades, it became clear that Ted Turner was not only a visionary in the field of communications but also for Atlanta. CNN became a leading tourist attraction for the city, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors each year from all over the world.

Occasionally, if I arrived at work a little early, I would walk by the giant, red CNN logo letters mounted on the sidewalk in front of the building entrance. No matter what time of day or night, there were always people there. Sometimes I would pause, help them take group photos and ask them where they were from. Many of them spoke English, some didn’t. All were excited to be there. They were curious and friendly. The common thread among them was having watched, trusted and learned something from CNN. I could imagine all those people going back to their hometowns, cities or villages and saying, “I visited Atlanta and saw CNN.” How much goodwill is generated in experiences like that?

The area around CNN Center also became a focal point for protesters, apparently thinking that would be their best bet as a place to get attention. The vast majority of those demonstrations were orderly and peaceful. A protest in May 2020; however, following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, became violent and left CNN Center with smashed windows and its trademark logo damaged.

CNN Center was resilient and had a knack for bouncing back. But there were a couple of challenges even it couldn’t survive. Then-President Jeff Zucker effectively moved CNN’s headquarters, and much of its live programming, out of Atlanta to New York over the last decade. And CNN’s former parent company, AT&T sold CNN Center to a couple of Florida-based real estate firms. So now CNN will return to the place of its birth – the Turner Techwood campus in Midtown Atlanta. The towering red logo letters will come down and CNN Center will be relegated to history.

There are hundreds of stories we could reminisce about the saga of covering news day in and day out from that building, but that’s for some other time. For now, let’s just say: “So long, CNN Center. And thanks for the memories.”

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  1. Faye January 29, 2023 8:29 am

    It’s was wrong to move it aways from vistor. I just hate how someone destroy Ted Turner idea. Please bring ot back but trying to find something to to additional inside to make it worth. I am thinking those CEO are too wrong to think it best to move. Please please bring it back to the previous address where it should ne. Stop act like a baby.Report

  2. Vinda January 29, 2023 9:08 am

    So very sad that there are damaging protests in places that have nothing to do with a cause, only people acting out in a hostile fashion.Report

  3. Mr. Johnson January 29, 2023 1:16 pm

    Shame. Ted Turner wanted CNN downtown in Atlanta. Atlanta is becoming a failed city. Moving anything to New York from here doesn’t make any sense. I understand they will be moving to the original Techwood location, but that will not attract visitors, or help Atlanta’s economy. A level one trauma center and a major tourist attraction gone. Atlanta is losing.Report

  4. Marcus G January 29, 2023 3:52 pm

    Broadcast journalism? CNN? They are absolutely mutually exclusive. It boggles the mind that people will continually tune in to a propaganda machine that has been lying continually for years. The sooner they leave the airwaves the better.Report

  5. Karon Stephens January 29, 2023 3:57 pm

    As a native Atlanta resident and former employee of TBS, Inc. — who over her six years with the company, occupied office space at both the CNN and Techwood Drive locations, as well as, in the old WTCG-17 building on Williams Street — I share your sentiments. There are definitely countless stories to share for another day — Ted Turner sightings at Techwood,, my first “drink,” a virgin Pina Colada, at the OMNI’s Burt’s Place, named for legendary actor, Burt Reynolds, ice skating, and riding up the, then, tallest escalator in the world — if I recall correctly — to the indoor amusement park, just to name a few. An old family friend and historian, Herman “Skip” Mason, has a website dedicated just for this sort of thing. It’s called Vanishing Black Atlanta. We’ve already begun to share our memories of time spent at the CNN Center.Report

  6. Chris January 29, 2023 6:41 pm

    What a shame, Ted Turner did a great job putting Atlanta on the map and a group of idiots have destroyed everything this great man did for our city, Good luck Atlanta I don’t think those days of Ted Turner will ever come back.Report

  7. Fred Masci January 29, 2023 10:28 pm

    CNN is not trusted by any reasonable thinking person. It is simply a propaganda machine supporting the views of one party. Good riddance.Report

  8. Matt January 30, 2023 7:03 am

    “Revolutionized broadcast journalism ‘? Yeah if LYING DISHONESTY, DECEIT and DISINFORMATION are broadcast journalism. ANYTHING CNN says or prints are to be ignored. The LEAST trusted name in newsReport

  9. Lester Corbus January 31, 2023 10:19 am

    I wish Ted had a new use for the old OMNI.Report

  10. Andrea Cook January 31, 2023 11:28 am

    I am a native Atlantan and can recall so many wonderful memories at the CNN center. Ice skating, Riding the pinballs at The World of Sid and Marty Croft, dinner on prom night at the fancy restaurant overlooking the center. For everything there is a season……………Report


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