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WarnerMedia’s honor of Ted Turner: ‘It’s not enough’

Maria Saporta
Techwood campus dedication in Ted Turner's honor (Photo by Maria Saporta)

By Maria Saporta

Plain and simple. Ted Turner deserves more.

On Dec. 6, WarnerMedia brought its top brass to Atlanta to dedicate the media company’s Techwood campus to Ted Turner. They also unveiled a mural and a plaque describing Turner as “the original maverick pioneer in the media industry” and as a “champion of the environment.”

Plaque at WarnerMedia’s Techwood location honoring Ted Turner (Photo by Maria Saporta)

For good measure, WarnerMedia made a $550,000 gift in Turner’s honor to the University of Georgia for a Ted Turner Exhibition Hall and Gallery at UGA’s library as well as a scholarship fund and an internship in his name at UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t make up for the company wiping out Turner’s name on all the media entities he created – especially Turner Broadcasting System.

The erasing of Turner’s name came about earlier this year after AT&T bought TimeWarner, the parent company of Turner Broadcasting. After a reorganization of divisions, Turner’s name was removed from company and folded into the Los Angeles-based WarnerMedia, a subsidiary of Dallas-based AT&T.

At the dedication ceremony, Rubye Lucas, a former Turner executive who used to serve on the board of Turner Broadcasting, couldn’t hide her disapproval of the sad turn of events.

“It’s not enough,’ Lucas said of WarnerMedia’s recognition of Turner. “I appreciate everything that happened today with the naming of the campus. But in my heart of hearts, it should be and always should be Turner Broadcasting System. It was a shock and extremely hurtful to me when they took his name off. WarnerMedia put a dent in the honor that Ted Turner deserves.”

WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey at the dedication of the Techwood campus being named after Ted Turner (Photo by Maria Saporta)

In many ways, Lucas is part of the conscience of Turner Broadcasting. She has seen Ted Turner up, close and personal for the better part of five decades. Her husband, Bill Lucas, was the first African-American general manger in Major League Baseball when he was named general manager of the Atlanta Braves in September, 1976.

It was thanks to Ted Turner that Bill Lucas, who had been with the Braves organization for 20 years, became part of history. Tragically Lucas died suddenly in May 1979, but Ted Turner reached out to Rubye Lucas and made her a company executive.

That’s only one of countless stories of how Turner changed the course of history – in Atlanta, in the United States and the world. Yes, Turner invented the 24-hour news channel – CNN. Yes, Turner saw the potential of combining cable television with satellite transmission years before others had a clue. And yes, Turner had an uncanny ability to see around corners and warn us of the perils we face here on earth.

Turner gave $1 billion to create the United Nations Foundation. He started the Nuclear Threat Initiative to prevent the global proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Turner Foundation has become an international leader for the environment – working on policies to help us fight climate change and adopt more sustainable practices.

The list of Turner’s contributions go on, and on, and on….

In short, renaming a campus off the beaten track or renaming a few blocks of Spring Street downtown after Ted Turner just doesn’t come close to giving him the honor he deserves.

But we can make it right.

Ted Turner flanked by members of his family as well as Captain Planet himself as well as Ed Roland of Collective Soul, singer and artist Julian Lennon and keyboardist Chuck Leavell on Nov. 16 at the Captain Planet Foundation gala (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

The state of Georgia, the city of Atlanta, WarnerMedia, AT&T among others should figure out a way to properly honor one of our top global citizens – Ted Turner. It should include the buy-in of Gov. Brian Kemp and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (neither of whom were present at the dedication of the Techwood campus last week).

In the best of all worlds, Turner would receive a lifetime of achievement award from the Nobel Peace Prize laureates – ideally when they hold their annual summit in Atlanta in the spring of 2021.

Wouldn’t it be great if we were able to commission a statue or a multidimensional recognition of Turner in Centennial Olympic Park near CNN Center? Imagine what our downtown would have been like if Turner had not bought the vacant Omni office building and made it the home of CNN.

Interestingly enough, AT&T’s Georgia operations has moved into CNN Center and taken over the executive suites where Turner worked (often spending the night in the complex).

It’s the least we can do for a man who has given the world as much as Ted Turner has given us.

Techwood campus dedication in Ted Turner’s honor (Photo by Maria Saporta)

A billboard at the dedication of the Techwood campus in Ted Turner’s honor (Photo by Maria Saporta}

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Maria Saporta
Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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7 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Kri December 10, 2019 10:18 am

    I agree with you Maria Saporta! More could be done! Proud to have worked there in the 1980’s.Report

    Reply
  2. Avatar
    Bonnie O'Neill December 10, 2019 12:10 pm

    At the very least , yes, a statue in front of the CNN building. A statue to honor his vision, courage and leadership not only to Atlanta but to our planet. Years ago , I worked on the ceremony to unveil the statue of Mr. Woodruff at the Arts Center. Frail as he was then, serendipitously, he came to the site the night before and with his physician nearby, the statue was unveiled. .As I was told, though his eyesight was failing , he went up close and ran his hands over the statue. He was pleased as we clearly saw the next day at the ceremony, his last public appearance before his passing. Atlanta has been blessed with some extraordinary leaders. Robert Woodruff was one of them. So is Ted Turner .A statue would be one way to honor him.
    I hope it happens, Bonnie O’NeillReport

    Reply
  3. Avatar
    Janet Rechtman December 10, 2019 1:45 pm

    I remember attending a luncheon at colony Square where Ted Turner announced the creation of CNN. I was a media director in an ad agency at the time and all I could think was “that will never work.” Hindsight is 20/20 in this case. Back in those days, Turner Advertising, the billboard company, was a mainstay of Atlanta is ad community. Also had the best holiday party ever. Glad to see Ted Turner being honored. Sorry to see that it’s happening at a time when he is so illReport

    Reply
  4. Avatar
    Ian December 23, 2019 4:32 pm

    I think a statue would be a nice gesture, but don’t agree that this is some horrific injustice to Ted Turner. He has a street named after him, a campus, countless documentaries made in his honor, and so on. He will always be associated with this city and be a big topic in CNN studio tours and in journalism text books. Turner Broadcasting and its employees trying to hold onto the past need to move on. The media landscape is consolidating and evolving to streaming and ondemand entertainment. The days of legacy broadcasting are dying and attempts to keep it and the institutions of the past are futile.Report

    Reply
  5. Avatar
    Richard January 4, 2020 10:26 pm

    Ted Turner is much more than a “maverick”. He is a visionary who made his visions reality by being a superior leader.Report

    Reply
    1. Avatar
      Karen Kerr March 8, 2020 1:45 pm

      Agree. And I believe his contributions will be heralded
      centuries into the future.
      Ted Turner was ahead of his time.Report

      Reply
  6. Avatar
    Karen Kerr March 8, 2020 1:27 pm

    No measure, or number of mergers, acquisitions, renaming or relicensing will ever rival or erase the magnitude and impact of a signature by Turner Turner.
    His passions often created monumental innovation, change or creations by which we became direct beneficiaries. Thanks for the 24 hour news model, Turner Classic Movies, Wildlife, Environmental, Entertainment/Sports contributions & funding for Political Forums. Probably, one of the more effective & fascinating individuals to roam God’s green Earth.Report

    Reply

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