Ted Turner: A Media Giant
A drive through Atlanta’s downtown traffic can often feel disenfranchised. Restaurants offer cuisine of every ethnicity, shopping centers cater to a continuously mixing style, and a wrong turn down one lane can either land a driver in the ritzy streets of uptown or in the midst of never-ending construction going on in the city’s dense center. Yet, at its core, there seems to be one man connecting each fractured piece of Atlanta: philanthropist and media mogul Ted Turner.
In a short two mile stretch through parts of downtown, Ted Turner has at one point owned the city’s professional baseball team, some of its finest restaurants, and many of the cable news networks that flourish with his touch. Turner’s interest in the advertising world was established at a young age by his father, who was a highly successful billboard salesman. Turner’s youth and young adulthood, however, were shaken up by his family’s decisions to frequently relocate, at one point having felt entirely abandoned when he was left to defend for himself at a boarding school in Cincinnati. After his family convened again in Savannah, Georgia, Turner was sent to Atlanta to attend the Georgia Military Academy and was eventually kicked out of the prestigious Brown University after violating several of his dorm’s rules. Upon leaving school and returning to Georgia, he was rocked again by his sister’s death after she succumbed to a long term illness, and ultimately decided to refocus his energy entirely into helping maintain his father’s business, Turner Advertising. By 1960, he was promoted to the manager of the branch in Macon. His talent for business almost immediately presented itself, with the company’s revenue doubling in his first year as manager. However, Turner would yet again have to throw himself into his work in order to cope. His father, who suffered of bipolar disorder, shot and killed himself just three years later. It was then that the media mogul launched the company into a different avenue, buying several radio stations, renaming it Turner Communications, and ultimately expanding into television. One of his personal catchphrases “early to bed, early to rise, work like hell, and advertise,” held up well for the young businessman. By 1970, Turner owned the largest advertising company in the southeastern United States.
1976 saw Turner introducing an entirely new concept to television. Instead of being limited to the typical, three channel broadcast of the time, Turner wanted to reinvent the way people watched television by being the first to utilize satellite technology. He was able to then broadcast his cable station nationwide, and soon after created the first 24 hour news network, CNN. This revolutionized the way people could process news on a regular basis, drawing coverage from international sources that previously could not have been reached. Its inception further solidified the businessman’s enterprise, now titled Turner Broadcasting Company. The company had a massive impact in the production and consumption of media overall. In an interview he gave this year with CNN’s own Piers Morgan, Turner said this of his vision for the network: “The emphasis should be on – hard news. I wanted CNN to be the ‘New York Times’ for the news business, not the ‘The Daily News.’ I thought that for the long-term, that would be the best position to be in, even if the ratings weren’t the greatest. If you had the most prestige and you were the network that everybody turned to in times of a crisis, that was the most important position in the news business to hold.”
The business man’s reach has continued to grow, now spanning multiple franchises and generations. The Turner family currently owns MGM, Cartoon Network, TNT, Turner Entertainment, Turner Foundation, Turner Field Braves Stadium, and a chain of successful restaurants known as Ted’s Montana Grill. He now lives in Montana on a ranch, helping to raise the bison his restaurants use for their most known product. And though he recently was asked to step down from his head position at CNN, he still holds the company that he founded with the highest regard. Ted Turner’s family legacy of “setting goals beyond your reach so you always have something to live for,” has helped him achieve far beyond even his family’s original expectations. Driving through Atlanta, it’s difficult to find an area that hasn’t somehow been crafted by the media mogul himself. And therefore, we can see what he ultimately achieved.
– Melissa Cruz