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Access Points 21: CNN Center tour in downtown Atlanta

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Tours through CNN Center show off the TV

Did you recognize the photo in this week’s Access Point?

While an afternoon of wandering inside Target can be great fun, the image was definitely the CNN logo toward the front of CNN Center, across from Centennial Olympic Park. Good eye, KMP!

I sometimes felt like the only person who’d been to Atlanta and hadn’t been on a CNN tour. I’m a bad journalism cheerleader and an even worse arbiter of fun things to do. It’s one of our landmarks; a Russian journalist who stayed at my house for a night before heading home had two requests for her short time here: to see the Margaret Mitchell House and the CNN Tour.”Gone With the Wind” and Anderson Cooper. That’s us.

I decided to check it out this week after Mayor Kasim Reed announced Monday that $1 from each CNN tour will go toward Atlanta recreation centers — another source of fun and education for a lot of families in town.

Turner Broadcasting System spokesperson Misty Skedgell confirmed for the AJC this week that TBS would not increase the price of tour tickets, and that the company would contribute $1 for each ticket sold throughout 2010 — typically about 250,000 tickets per year.

CNN recommends making reservations for tours, especially for groups, but I was able to walk right up to the ticket window on Tuesday and start a tour a few minutes later. I went through airport-style security with about 30 other visitors — several who had written language translations — and ascended the eight-story, 196-foot free-standing escalator to start the tour. (Our guide proudly informed us it’s the largest free-standing escalator in the world. I believe her.)

We landed among a few dramatic artifacts — the box they used to keep broadcasting during the Persian Gulf War, a piece of the Berlin Wall, a computer dented by a bullet — and made our way to a small theater, where we were able to see and hear what’s going on in the control room.

Our guide showed off the difference between a projection screen and a green screen, draping herself in green fabric to show how she can go invisible, Harry Potter-style. We also learned the terminology “broad non-committal sweep,” that meteorologist/pageant queen gesture we’ve all seen during weather reports about snow in Georgia-ish.

The best moments, though, were the look inside the CNN newsroom. (You get a glimpse at the HLN newsroom and studios, too, but CNN’s is larger and easier to see.) Rick Sanchez was on the air and the writers and producers behind him seemed calm, but busy. As we were standing there, we could see breaking news about a Learjet crash in Chicago on the TV Screen.

Our guide touched on CNN International and CNN en Espanol. From up above, we could clearly see the map of the world on the tile floor of CNN Center, and the gold plates that mark where the network has a news operation. But we didn’t spend time on other news operations in the building, like CNN Radio or CNN Wires. It’s understandable, I suppose. It always feel bad for groups touring the AJC. It’s particularly exciting place to be when there’s big breaking news, but most days, it’s an office with a lot of typing, phone chatter and sporadic bursts of laughter. TV has more in the way of sex appeal and gadgets.

And while we can send you home with some newspapers, they’ve got serious souvenirs. The tour ends  in the gift shop, where you can pick up CNN onesies, CNN mugs or the most fun gift of all, the HLN Snuggie. Seriously.

Have you been on the CNN tour? What did you think?

See it: TV news junkies, viewers crushing on Rick Sanchez or Robin Meade, tourists looking to kill an hour

Skip it: Radio or Web news junkies — CNN Radio and CNN.com are in the building, but not on the tour — or those hoping to actually meet Rick Sanchez or Robin Meade. (Although, you may want to check out some of the other versions of the tour. The $35 VIP experience might offer those perks.)

Want to go? CNN Center tours run 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, with tours departing every 10 minutes. $13, #12 for people ages 65 and older, $11 for students ages 13-18, $10 for kids ages 4-12, $11 each for groups of 20 or more people, $9 groups of 20 or more people ages 4-18, free for children ages 3 and younger. CNN Center, : 190 Marietta St. N.W., Atlanta. 404-827-2300, www.cnn.com/tour/atlanta.

For instant updates, follow @insideaccess on Twitter.

5 comments Add your comment

[...] I sometimes felt like the only person who’d been to Atlanta and hadn’t been on a CNN tour. [...]

Jamie Gumbrecht

January 7th, 2010
11:26 pm

Sadie — I’ll send your comments to the folks who make these decisions. :) You can send them directly, too, to Public Editor Shawn McIntosh at insideajc@ajc.com.

Sadie Johnson

January 7th, 2010
5:18 pm

I miss Charles Seaforth (last name?)’s column that used to be in the Sunday paper. I do buy the newsstand edition each week and really miss his column, espeically “What’s in the sky this week.” Am I just missing it or will you consider bringing it back? Thanks.

[...] pm January 6, 2010, by Jamie Gumbrecht UPDATE 1/7/10: Want to know the answer? Here it is! Do you know what and where this is? Share your ideas in the comments! AJC/Jamie [...]

rachael

January 7th, 2010
4:48 pm

“…Mayor Kasim Reed announced Monday that $1 from each CNN tour will go toward Atlanta recreation centers — another source of fun and education for a lot of families in town.”

That’s fantastic!