ATLANTA - Princell Hair, who heads the U.S. news operations at CNN, is giving the term "road show" new meaning.
Anchor Paula Zahn will be the host of a town hall meeting at 8 tonight in Canton, Ohio. Folks from the battleground state will get the chance to pose questions to campaign operatives for President Bush and Sen. John Kerry.
"It is a format I like a lot because I think it is spontaneous," said Zahn.
But Hair plans to send anchors of the prime-time shows, as well as the afternoon political programs, on the road as well. Lou Dobbs is going to Washington, Aaron Brown to Seattle, Judy Woodruff to Philadelphia.
"This is a populist approach," said Hair, a former news director at WBAL who joined CNN last September. "We had been looking at ways we could differentiate ourselves."
Other news programs, on both broadcast and cable, have done shows off-site. Fox News has put The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity & Colmes on the road.
Joe Angotti, a former senior vice president of news at NBC who now is chair of the broadcast program at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Illinois, praised the strategy.
"Not enough people are going out to see what is happening," he said. "People are relying on polls. They aren't ... talking to people."