• Elissa Free

From a scrappy unknown to a media mammoth

Updated: Jul 22, 2021


Like so many others have said, Ted Turner changed my life. I was one of the lucky ones who was there in the Washington bureau before CNN went on the air on June 1, 1980. We didn't even have a sign on the door. In the early days when guests said they had trouble finding us, I took a piece of copy paper and scrawled "Cable News Network" in black magic marker and taped it to the door.

Persuading government officials to appear on CNN was no easy lift. After explaining that "Cable News Network was Ted Turner's 24 hour news channel" it was still an uphill battle since no one in Washington could even see CNN because the city wasn't wired for cable TV.


Ted had the genius idea to provide satellite dishes to power centers — Capitol Hill, the Pentagon, the White House, State Department and such. Once that happened, everything changed.


Although Ted didn't come around often, it was always a thrill when he visited the "troops," offering encouragement and thanks. It was the honor of a lifetime to be there at the start. I am forever grateful for his vision, courage, and spirit which made CNN possible.

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About the Author


Elissa was a CNN original, working in the Washington bureau for 21 years. She wore many hats including talk show producer, field producer, package producer, executive producer, and newsroom manager.