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News anchor Paula Zahn signs on with CNN

Paula Zahn  

NEW YORK (CNN) -- News anchor Paula Zahn, fired Wednesday from Fox News, announced Thursday she has signed a contract with CNN.

"I am so excited about what lies ahead here at CNN," Zahn said at a news conference to announce the move. "I am delighted."

CNN executives said Zahn, an Emmy award winner who spent 10 years at CBS and hosted morning news shows for CBS and ABC, will anchor a new morning show to be based in the network's ground-level space now under construction in New York's Time & Life Building.

"It's all a part of building the best lineup we can get," said Sid Bedingfield, executive vice president of CNN/USA. He said CNN would not seek to emulate such established morning shows as "Today" or "Good Morning America."

"We want to create a show that's distinctive to CNN," he said. "We think with Paula's help, we're going to be able to do that."

Walter Isaacson, CNN News Group chairman and chief executive, said the morning program would debut next summer.

Fox News fired Zahn Wednesday afternoon for what it claimed was a breach of contract, though the anchor and her representatives said she did nothing wrong. Zahn, who hosted "The Edge with Paula Zahn" on weekday evenings, had been under contract with the company through February 2002.

Fox said it will "initiate legal action immediately" against the agency representing Zahn, N.S. Bienstock, and that it was considering other litigation.

Zahn, 45, mother of three children, said she was "deeply disappointed" by Fox's reaction, and maintained she did nothing wrong.

"I was prepared to stay at Fox through the end of my contract," Zahn told reporters. "Everything I have done has been totally consistent with my contractual obligations to Fox."

Zahn is the latest big-name news talent to sign on with CNN within the last year:

-- Lou Dobbs, who had left the network, returned to host Lou Dobbs Moneyline, an updated version of the financial show he helped create.

-- Aaron Brown, formerly of ABC, will host a soon-to-debut New York-based evening newscast.

-- Former "NYPD Blue" actress Andrea Thompson left her anchor job at an Albuquerque, New Mexico, station to co-anchor evenings on the revamped Headline News.

Isaacson, newly arrived himself at CNN from sister company Time Inc., where he became editorial director after many years as a Time Magazine editor and executive, said assigning Zahn and Brown to New York-based programs did not signal a shift of CNN's editorial operations from Atlanta to New York.

"I think it's important for CNN to get out as much as possible from the Washington-New York axis," said Isaacson, who splits his time between Atlanta and New York. "This is not some big strategic shift to New York."

Zahn, a graduate of Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, joined Fox in 1999 as anchor of its evening news, "The Fox Report."

While at CBS, she covered the 1992 Olympic Winter Games in Albertville, France, and the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway. She earned an Emmy Award in 1994 for Outstanding Coverage of a Continuing News Story and another for her coverage of a mid-flight collision of two planes while at KCBS in Los Angeles in 1984.

Before working at CBS, Zahn was co-anchor of ABC's "World News This Morning" and anchored news segments on "Good Morning America."

"I very much look forward to getting back again in the morning news race," she said.

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