Retirement, Hello!

Tim Surette at TV.com:

Larry King has died. Oh wait, what? He just retired? Oh. Okay. Larry King has retired as host of Larry King Live, the long-running program that began 25 years ago. King will still hang around the CNN offices occasionally, hosting various specials and stealing pens, but he’s done with his nightly show.

John Hudson at The Atlantic with a round-up. Hudson:

After years of interviewing A-list celebrities and political heavyweights, Larry King is retiring from his post at CNN. In a brief statement, King wrote:

I’ll still be a part of the CNN family, hosting several Larry King specials on major national and international subjects. I’m incredibly proud that we recently made the Guinness Book of World Records for having the longest running show with the same host in the same time slot. With this chapter closing I’m looking forward to the future and what my next chapter will bring, but for now it’s time to hang up my nightly suspenders.

In the last few months, a growing chorus of media observes had urged him to retire.

Christopher Weber at Politics Daily:

“Larry King Live” recently made the Guinness Book of World Records for having the longest running show with the same host in the same time slot.

Despite dropping in the ratings in recent months, the show has remained a prominent outlet for newsmakers to tell their stories, from O.J. Simpson to Octomom and Monica Lewinsky to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. King, always wearing suspenders and dark-rimmed glasses, is known for asking straightforward questions and giving guests time to talk.

Seemingly every major politician has scheduled a campaign stop to sit across from King’s signature vintage microphone. During their 2008 presidential runs, Barack Obama and John McCain made multiple appearances. Billionaire Ross Perot announced he was running for president in 1992 on the program. And the show was the setting for the historic NAFTA debate between then-Vice President Al Gore and Perot in 1993, which for more than a decade was the highest-rated program in cable history, according to CNN.

King has sat down with every U.S. president since Richard Nixon. CNN said King has interviewed more than 50,000 people, “including Marlon Brando, Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Paul McCartney, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, L. Ron Hubbard, Madonna and Martin Luther King, Jr.”

The network has not confirmed published reports that British television personality Piers Morgan will succeed King in the 9 p.m. ET slot.

Newsbook at The Economist:

The departure of Ms Brown and Mr King opens a two-hour window to fix this problem. CNN has already announced plans for half of it. Eliot Spitzer, who governed New York state until he dallied with a prostitute, will host a discussion programme with Kathleen Parker, a conservative newspaper columnist. Non-partisanship will give way to partisan crossfire.

There are rumours that Mr King’s chair will be occupied by Piers Morgan, who is best known in America for judging America’s Got Talent, a competitive variety show. In Britain, on the other hand, Mr Morgan is mostly associated with a turbulent spell at the Daily Mirror newspaper. He was pushed out in 2004 following the publication of hoaxed pictures purporting to show British troops abusing Iraqis. If nothing else, his arrival would make CNN less dull.

Joel Keller at TV Squad:

I’m jealous of Larry King.

No, really, I am. Not of his family life or his sartorial choices (he’s too pigeon-shouldered for those suspenders), but of his interviewing skills.

You heard me. As a guy who’s done his fair share of celebrity interviews over the years, to the point where I’m starting to forget who I’ve spoken to and when, I’ve always marveled at how Larry was able to get the people who came into his studio to open up and get personal with him.

In the olden days of magazines, reporters would have to hang out with their subjects for weeks on end, or delve deeply into their subjects’ lives via research and reporting in order to get so personal. King, on the other hand, managed to do it in just under an hour, when the only research he may have is a few quotes and what the subject’s next project was.

Now that King has decided to semi-retire, that style will be hard to replicate. How was he able to do it?

He made his guests comfortable. Let’s face it; to many, Larry is the doddering but curious grandfather people always liked talking to. And he used that perception to his advantage. He never, ever put his guests on the spot as soon as they sat down. Often he opens with a question about their latest project or what they’ve been doing lately. He gently leads them to the point where he can ask them open-ended questions about real feelings they have as opposed to canned PR-approved answers. To some, those questions were softballs. But to those who really knew his methods, those were his way to get people to relax.

Tony Collings at Firedoglake:

Amid all the praise for Larry King as he prepares to depart, I hate to rain on his parade but the truth is that much of what he did was bad journalism. He used up an entire hour at an all-news network to give celebrities free publicity, at a time when I and other CNN Washington correspondents were trying to ask the tough questions that journalists need to ask. Most of the time King’s questions weren’t even softballs. They were invitations to celebrities to tell us how wonderful they are. And the worst moment of all came on Jan. 18, 2001.

That was when King was on the stage with newly-elected President George W. Bush. It was at a pre-inaugural party paid for by Bush supporters and carried live on CNN. The decision had been made by CNN to let King host the event, a decision that CNN execs later regretted, since this clearly created the appearance of pro-administration bias by an employee of a news organization. Good journalists are supposed to not only be detached but adopt an adversarial relationship toward the powerful. That evening Larry King did the exact opposite.

To make it worse, at one point he rushed up to Bush and hugged him.

I watched in dismay, and so did most other journalists. As CNN reporter John King (no relation) later put it: “I watched in shame and horror.”

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