CNN ends science mission

Cut affects staff, including Miles O'Brien

NEW YORK -- CNN will close its dedicated unit that covered environmental, science and space stories.

The cuts affect about five staffers, including longtime correspondent and space reporter Miles O'Brien, who will leave the network. O'Brien has worked at CNN for 17 years, during which time he covered Space Shuttle launches, anchored hours and co-anchored "American Morning."

CNN executives said it didn't make sense to have the unit as well as a "Planet in Peril" division that covers many of the same topics.

"We want to integrate environmental, science and technology reporting into the general editorial structure rather than have a stand-alone unit," a CNN spokeswoman said Wednesday. "Now that the bulk of our environmental coverage is being offered through the 'Planet in Peril' franchise, which is produced by the ('Anderson Cooper 360°') program, there is no need for a separate unit."

O'Brien said he'll leave CNN with great memories.

"In television news, a nearly 17-year stint at one shop is more than just a good run, it is an epoch," he said in an email. "I can honestly say I have loved every minute of my time at CNN -- well, maybe not the 2:45 a.m. alarm bell when I was anchoring 'American Morning.' "

CNN isn't the only Atlanta-based network to dismantle its environmental-reporting unit. The Weather Channel in November lost its environmental unit, which produced "Forecast Earth" for the network with former CNN anchor Natalie Allen. NBC Universal said at the time that it would integrate environmental programming into all of the Weather Channel's programming.

"These are tough times for all of us, especially in our business as it endures tectonic changes," O'Brien said. "But amid the chaos I see a lot of exciting opportunities, and I look forward to exploring what is on the horizon -- which, after all, has been my mission at CNN all these years."