CNN, Fox in battle of correspondents

Monday, October 1, 2001

NEW YORK -- The bitter rivalry between CNN and Fox News Channel spread to Afghanistan Sunday, where a veteran CNN correspondent stationed with forces fighting the Taliban abruptly switched networks.

Steve Harrigan, a 10-year CNN correspondent based in Moscow, told CNN he was leaving on Saturday and by Sunday morning was delivering reports via videophone from Afghanistan on Fox News Channel.

"It's a competitive world out there and it's very important that we have someone in Afghanistan," said Roger Ailes, Fox News Channel chief executive. "He just happened to work at CNN 24 hours ago."

It was something of a retaliatory strike, since CNN recently signed anchor Paula Zahn away from Fox.

CNN spokeswoman Christa Robinson said the network wishes Harrigan the best.

"We'd like to put it in perspective," she said. "CNN has over 75 people in the region covering that story. This is only one person."

Ailes characterized CNN as "asleep at the switch" in keeping Harrigan on the air without a contract. His CNN contract expired in May, and so did the 90-day window where CNN had the right to match any offer, said Harrigan's agent, Steven Herz of If Management Inc.

"This is not an anti-CNN move," Herz said. "It's just that he watched as people around him that he worked with and respected were laid off and that caused him some consternation. He also watched Fox grow and was impressed with how fast they came after him."

Harrigan got a multiyear contract with a significant raise, Herz said.

CNN, which had Christopher Burns reporting with Harrigan in northern Afghanistan, dispatched Matthew Chance to take Harrigan's place. The network also has a reporter inside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

Fox News Channel, which can't match CNN in overseas resources, had nobody stationed in Afghanistan until signing Harrigan.

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