This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, April 25, 2002. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.
BRENDA BUTTNER, GUEST HOST: Peter Jennings is feeling anything but up these days. ABC's veteran newsman may reportedly have to take a pay cut in his new contract. And my next guest says it's about time.
Joining me now is Reese Schonfeld, founding president and CEO of CNN. Reese, welcome.
REESE SCHONFELD, FOUNDING PRESIDENT & CEO, CNN: Good to be always.
BUTTNER: So, anchors do not like to see those zeros going away?
SCHONFELD: Well, you know, the power of your show — I said that on this show to Neil 60 days ago when they — you know, when they want to keep Ted Koppel on and they say they do not want David Letterman, they want to protect news and they have to — the company has to protect its bottom line, let them put their money where their mouth is. Let them say OK, we will take a pay cut if it means better news, if it means we can have more bureaus. And I am glad that — I know your show is all powerful and I am glad that people heard that on the air.
BUTTNER: Please go on. You can have all of the time you like.
SCHONFELD: I just want to say David Westin must watch it and he followed that advice and he is asking, from what we read in the papers, he is asking Peter Jennings to drop $2.5 million off his salary.
BUTTNER: And do you think he will do it? Does he have a choice?
SCHONFELD: Well, a lot of people say he has no choice. Where is he going to go? Who else is going to pay him $10 million a year? You know, $7.5 million ain't bad either.
But I got great advice to Peter Jennings. I think he should tell his bosses, OK, I will take the $7.5 million, but that's providing you do not close down any more bureaus to save money. Why don't you help the news and I'll tell you what I'd do. I would take the $7.5 million, but for every bureau you close from now on, you have got to pay me a million bucks more.
BUTTNER: All right. You're the negotiator.
SCHONFELD: What I am trying to do is protect the news product, just what they are.
BUTTNER: Well, in fact though, the viewers really are going away from the Toms and from the Peters to the Sheps now. That is who they are watching, the cable.
SCHONFELD: Well, that's my chef. Emeril makes more money than any of these guys per viewer.
BUTTNER: Shep Smith.
SCHONFELD: Oh, I thought you said "chef." Sure, they are losing viewers to cable, to the cable networks, to all three of them. Yours is doing far and away the best of all, but CNN is also gaining.
BUTTNER: So, shouldn't these guys have pay cuts then? Tom, all the rest?
SCHONFELD: I think they are. What is clear is that the networks can't afford to spend as much money on news as they are spending now. And rather than firing ordinary techs and closing down bureaus, I think guys who are making $10 million, $12 million a year, they ought to say, OK, I will bear some of that brunt. They ought to really volunteer to do it just to prove their sincerity and the depth of their feeling about news. I believe news is all important. I think they say they do. Let them prove it. Take some money.
BUTTNER: Do you think Tom Brokaw is going to leave? There is some talk that he may be leaving?
SCHONFELD: Well, I think there is a lot talk about, you know, they have somebody in waiting. They have got an anchor in waiting in Brian Williams. And, you know, Brian Williams earns a hell of a lot less than Tom Brokaw, so who knows what NBC will decide, who knows what Tom will decide. He has looked awfully good in Iraq, although it's the wrong place and he is saying the wrong thing. But he looks good on camera these days.
BUTTNER: And that counts.
SCHONFELD: That counts very much.
BUTTNER: Anybody worth their money at the networks? You like Katie Couric?
SCHONFELD: Oh, I love Katie Couric. She's making $18,000,000 a year, but she does six times as much television as all these other guys do. She does six half-hours. And, you know, if Jennings is getting $10 million for one half-hour, Katie sure as hell is worth $18 for six half-hours.
She started with me. I love her. And she brings in audience, and I'm not sure any of these three — the same guys with different haircuts. I don't know that any of them is interchangeable.
BUTTNER: Do you have any opinions?
Thanks so much, Reese Schonfeld.
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