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Journalists’ Film Roles Trouble Cnn Chief

By John Carman San Francisco Chronicle

The appearance of CNN journalists in the film “Contact,” intended to promote the cable news network, instead has become an embarrassment.

CNN President Tom Johnson said Monday he has ordered a review of CNN’s ethics policy, including movie appearances by reporters and anchors, and that such appearances probably will be banned.

“We try to police these things,” Johnson said. “This summer we let go. … I think the policy will be that no journalist will be allowed to appear in movies.”

At least a dozen CNN reporters, anchors and commentators play themselves in “Contact,” the newly released Warner Bros. movie about an astronomer (Jodie Foster) who detects the first transmissions to Earth from an alien civilization.

CNN’s senior news anchor Bernard Shaw is in the film, along with anchors Bobbie Battista and Linden Soles, talk-show host Larry King and several CNN correspondents who are seen reporting on the “alien contact.”

Johnson, who originally approved of the use of CNN personnel in the film, said he now has second thoughts because the line between entertainment and news is blurred and because of the awkward synergy between CNN and Warner Bros.

CNN and the movie studio are corporate cousins since last year’s merger between Turner Broadcasting and the Time Warner entertainment conglomerate.

“First of all, it really creates a concern that we are somehow being manipulated by Time Warner,” Johnson told reporters Monday during the television summer press tour in Pasadena.

“We are not. Categorically, we are not.

“And second, it’s fair to say that it does blur the line.”

Johnson said he had been persuaded to allow the participation of CNN journalists in the movie because it was seen as a good opportunity to promote CNN.

“The origin of this was basically just our whole potential for cross-promotion for the summer, where we would be able to be shown as the network where people go for breaking news.

Most major news organizations forbid their news employees from appearing in Hollywood movies out of concern that appearing in fictional stories would diminish their credibility as journalists.

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