News that hits home

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The channel was launched at midnight Eastern Time on January 1, 1982, as CNN2. The channel’s launch was simulcast nationwide on sister networks CNN and Superstation WTBS (now simply TBS), starting at 11:45 p.m. on December 31, 1981, as a preview for cable providers that had not yet reached agreements to carry CNN2. Following a preview reel by original CNN anchor Lou Waters and an introduction by founder and then-Turner Broadcasting CEO Ted Turner, Chuck Roberts (who would become the channel’s longest-serving news anchor, with a 28-year career with CNN2/Headline News that lasted until his retirement on July 30, 2010) and Denise LeClair – anchored the channel’s first newscast.

Originally, the channel’s programming was formatted around the idea that a viewer could tune in at any time of day or night (instead of having to wait for the merely once- or twice-daily national news segments in local newscasts, or morning or evening network news programs), and receive up-to-date information on the top national and international stories in just 30 minutes.

This “Headline News Wheel” format featured – national and world news: 15 – business and personal finance reports (“Dollars and Sense”) 20 – sports scores and headlines (“Headline Sports”); and:25 – lifestyle reports (from 30, this news wheel was repeated all over again). The lifestyle segment was designed to allow local cable systems the option of pre-empting it with a local headline “capsule” from an associated regional cable news channel or a local television station. Another regular feature, the “Hollywood Minute”, was often fitted in after the “Headline Sports” segment. In the channel’s early years, a two-minute recap of the hour’s top stories, the “CNN Headlines,” would run after the sports segment. At the end of each newscast, a station identification would typically play, often with a voiceover from longtime TBS employee Bill “Troll” Tullis; initially name-checking Turner Broadcasting (“From Turner Broadcasting System, this is the Headline News network.”), it evolved into the simplistic “This is CNN Headline News.” by 1989; during the 1990s, the announcement was modified to “This is Headline News, a CNN network.” before returning to the earlier announcement by 1998, albeit modified again to “This is the CNN Headline News network.”.

On August 9 of the same year, it was renamed Headline News. From around that point until 1992, the channel was often abbreviated as “HN” (the channel would later incorporate a die-cut “HN” block design within the original variant of its third logo when it was introduced in 1989 before it was fully supplanted by the wordmark that accompanied it in 1992, which was later italicized). During its first year, Headline News had a competitor in the form of ABC/Group W’s Satellite News Channel, which operated from June 21, 1982, to October 27, 1983. After its shutdown, SNC’s satellite slot was then purchased by Ted Turner to expand Headline News’ reach further into additional homes. Shortly after, sister station WTBS handed production duties for their NewsWatch news capsules to Headline News by 1983 (resulting in these updates becoming voiceover-only), and at various times, other specialized news capsules produced by Headline News aired as well. These segments were phased out by 1996. WTBS also carried a half-hour simulcast of Headline News at 6 AM every day for many years, and would sometimes broadcast Headline News as filler (using the NewsWatch intro and outro) before movies or live sporting events.

Jon Petrovich was hired in the mid-1980s by Turner to lead Headline News. In 1990, Headline News developed Local Edition, a six-minute-long local newscast, whose content was produced by a local broadcast station in the participating market, airing at the end of each half-hour of Headline News’ rolling news block. The channel included the “CNN” branding in its name intermittently for most of its history, before being incorporated on a regular basis from 1997 to 2007 (though an alternate logo without the CNN logo was used for news broadcasts through 2001).

In 1989, Headline News introduced a ticker that appeared at the lower one-third of the screen – except during commercial breaks, which initially showed stock market data with indexes of the major stock exchanges (including the Dow Jones Industrial Average, NASDAQ and the S&P 500) and quotes for major companies during trading hours, which were updated on a 15-minute delay. In 1992, the channel added the “Headline News SportsTicker”, which showed sports scores and schedules for the day’s upcoming games, creating the first continuous news ticker on television. The redesign resulted in a video of the rolling newscasts becoming pillar boxed with blue bars on the left and right wings of the screen (matching the ticker’s original coloring), before it returned to a full-screen format, with the ticker becoming a translucent black background overlaid on the lower third of the video, as part of a 1994 update to the channel’s graphics package that also added weather forecasts for select major U.S. cities to the ticker. At the same time, the network’s bug was integrated into the ticker, and thus, the logo was no longer used in the copyright at the end of each broadcast.