Say what you will about CNN, one thing you can’t question is their tenacity for staying on the air and providing the world with a source of information in even the most dire of circumstances. Be it war, hurricanes, or the actual apocalypse, you can always turn on your TV, flip it to CNN, and find someone pontificating on the news of the day.
CNN’s commitment to the 24-hour news cycle could certainly be held at least partially responsible for the state of television news outlets today, but there is a certain nobility to their methodology. When there’s not much to report, their bloviating on politics or on Kim Kardashian’s Tweets can easily be accused of sucking the credibility out of their own profession, but when the sky is falling and we all need a place guaranteed to be on air and relaying information, CNN is one of the few places we know we can look – even if we aren’t a fan of their normal reporting methods.
That steadfast resilience is by design. When Ted Turner founded CNN in 1980, he was widely rumored to have said that the network will remain on the air until the end of the world. Access Atlanta quotes him as claiming at its onset, “We won’t be signing off until the world ends. We’ll be on, and we will cover the end of the world live, and that will be our last event.”
Plenty of people assumed Turner was being metaphorical, using the end of the world as an example of how extreme circumstances would have to be for his fledgling news network to shut down. For investors in his new channel, it was a great bit of PR, as it painted Turner as so confident in the potential success of his channel that it would remain on the air for all time.
Little did they realize, however, he seems to have thought the world would end quite a bit sooner than that.
Most news outlets have articles or video pieces assembled and placed under a category called, “hold for release.” SOFREP has some articles in the chute prepared ahead of time for holidays, for instance, so we can make sure we have good quality content pertaining to an important event ready for publish when our readers want it. Other outlets have been known to put together pieces about celebrities that could likely die in the near future, so they can be the first to air a puff piece about that celebrity’s life. It isn’t an unheard of practice in the media industry, and often it helps to ensure a timely release of content that doesn’t necessarily require up-to-date research.
Which brings us back to Ted Turner’s claim that CNN would remain on the air to cover the end of the world. Doing so would almost certainly require such a “hold for release” segment, as one could hardly expect Anderson Cooper to remain at his desk as Russian nuke-borne radiation turns him into a zombie, but for years, any such segment remained nothing more than rumor. The New Yorker published a piece theorizing on it in 1988, and The Daily News did again in 2001… but no one could ever be sure such a thing existed.
That is, until a few years ago.
A former CNN intern smuggled out a copy of the video that was reportedly produced soon after the network’s launch: a time when the threat of nuclear war with Russia was bearing down on the psyches of the American people, and for the first time in history, the very real possibility of a man-made world ending cataclysm seemed not only possible… but plausible. The video had remained in CNN’s MIRA archive, or digital archive of footage formerly on film, for years under the rosy heading, “TURNER DOOMSDAY VIDEO.”
The short video depicts a brass band playing, “Nearer My God to Thee,” the same song supposedly played by the band of the Titanic as the ship slipped into the icy deep. To Turner, who opened CNN’s first broadcast with the playing of the national anthem, it was the perfect song to sign off with as the world descended into chaos.
Whether or not a new video has since been put together is subject to speculation, as some claim the grainy footage in a 4:3 aspect ratio intended to be watched on the small tube TV’s of the 80s just wouldn’t suffice in a modern apocalypse… but then, if your house is being enveloped in hellfire, you may not be that picky about whether or not CNN is broadcasting its goodbye to you in HD.
You can watch CNN’s farewell to the world below:
Images courtesy of YouTube, Jalopnik