staff and news service reports
updated 2/17/2004 11:43:31 AM ET 2004-02-17T16:43:31

Veteran ABC executive and former CNN chief Rick Kaplan will replace Erik Sorenson as the head of MSNBC’s cable television channel. The announcement was made Tuesday by NBC News President Neal Shapiro and is effective immediately. 

An award-winning producer at ABC News, Kaplan headed CNN’s domestic operations from 1997 to 2000. After teaching for a time at Harvard, Kaplan returned to ABC News to help plan Iraq war coverage and remained as a senior executive there.

"I worked with Rick for 13 years at ABC News and I know firsthand the energy and innovation that is his trademark," said Shapiro.  "He knows every aspect of the news business, from cable to broadcast, and brings an incomparable wealth of knowledge and experience to the position."

Kaplan, who most recently was a senior vice president at ABC News, will report to Shapiro. 

"I have the greatest respect and admiration for Neal, and it is a pleasure and a privilege to work with him again," said Kaplan.  "I am joining a terrific team at MSNBC. Together we will create a unified vision for the cable network.  The great talent at MSNBC, a clear direction for its programming and the power and promotional platform of NBC are a recipe for success."

Sorenson has been MSNBC’s president and general manager since 1998. He now joins NBC News to work with Shapiro on long-term strategic projects.

"Erik presided over MSNBC's critically acclaimed coverage of Decision 2000, the 9/11 Attack on America, and the War in Iraq — not to mention playing a key role in developing our new primetime lineup," said Shapiro.  "His experience and expertise will be invaluable as the news division faces new programming and business challenges."

"After five years running MSNBC, I'm delighted to be handing over the reins to such a capable producer and leader," said Sorenson.  "I'm especially looking forward to returning to my roots in broadcast network news."   From 1989 to 1994, Sorenson was the Executive Producer of "CBS This Morning" and "The CBS Evening News."

Though MSNBC generally draws a younger audience than its competitors, it has lagged its rivals in overall viewers. MSNBC has averaged 373,000 viewers in prime time this season, compared with CNN’s 927,000 and Fox’s 1.62 million, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Named to his most recent post at ABC in June, 2003, Kaplan oversaw all of the division's hard news programming as well as ABC News' political unit.  He was a leader of the team which designed and constructed ABC's main newsroom and primary studio.  As senior vice president, Kaplan also oversaw the redesign of "This Week." Under his direction, ABC News created and successfully launched three campaign buses that have been integral in their coverage of the 2004 election season, providing traveling studios, newsrooms and live feeds from locations all across America.  He was appointed to the position after coordinating the network's control room production and news coverage of the war in Iraq.

Prior to his most recent tenure at ABC News, Kaplan was a teaching fellow at the Shorenstein Center of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.  He currently serves as an adjunct Fellow and continues to consult and lecture at the Shorenstein Center and is a professor at the University of Illinois.

From 1997-2000, Kaplan served as President of CNN-US and was responsible for all news and programming at the flagship network of the CNN News Group.  In that post, he rolled out a variety of news specials, a revamped program lineup with new anchor teams and an increased number of hours of hard news programming on the weekends.  Kaplan also produced all of CNN's prime time coverage of both the Republican and Democratic Conventions in 2000.

From 1979-1997, Kaplan held a variety of executive positions at ABC News and the ABC Television Network.  In 1994 he was named executive producer of "World News Tonight with Peter Jennings."  Prior to that, from 1989-94, he was the creator and executive producer of the ABC News magazine, "Primetime Live."  At the same time, he served as one of the producers and on-scene coordinators of the ABC News coverage of the Gulf War from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.  In September, 1991, he was the executive producer of the "ABC News Town Meeting" in which Soviet leaders Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin appeared together live from the Kremlin to answer questions from Americans.

Kaplan was the executive producer of ABC News Nightline from 1984-89.  Prior to that he served as executive producer of "World News This Morning" and "Good Morning America" news.  He joined ABC News in 1979 as a senior producer for "World News Tonight."  He was an associate producer for "The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite" from 1974-79.

Kaplan has received numerous awards for his work, including 34 Emmy Awards, four Oversees Press Club Awards, three George Foster Peabody Awards, two George Polk Awards, four Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Awards, and twelve Headliner Awards.

Kaplan has also taught a series of journalism classes since 1993 at the University of Illinois College of Communications in Champaign-Urbana.  In 1999, Kaplan received an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of Illinois, his alma mater. He has widely taught and lectured at universities across the country, including Duke University, Columbia University, Cornell, Wellesley, Penn, Boston College, Columbia College, USC and Berkeley.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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