When CNN launched in 1980, founder Ted Turner already knew how it was going to end. "Barring satellite problems, we won't be signing off until the world ends," he reportedly said. "When the end of the world comes, we'll play 'Nearer My God To Thee' before we sign off."
According to various rumors over the past three decades, Turner made good on that promise, creating a tape that would only be played in case of apocalypse: the combined Armed Forces marching band playing "Nearer My God to Thee," according to The New Yorker. But few people had ever seen the tape... until now. Jalopnik writer Michael Ballaban has posted a grainy, minute-long video that he says he unearthed in 2009 while interning for Wolf Blitzer at The Situation Room, under the simple name "Turner Doomsday Video" (as seen in the screenshot above.) Formatted for standard-definition 4:3 television, it would make a bizarre sight today — although we might, obviously, be too busy with the end of days to notice.
The very idea of a final apocalypse tape, in fact, seems strange now, and not just because CNN's fortunes have declined since the 1980s. It's not really clear how you would ever "hold for release till end of the world confirmed," as the screenshot says. But Turner created the video against the backdrop of potential nuclear war, when it seemed at least possible that our weapons could genuinely obliterate Earth as we knew it. But with the Cold War long over, what disaster would be so final that we'd give up hope of ever seeing news again? Our imagined apocalypses are creeping environmental disasters and mass plagues, slow and drawn-out deaths. And as for CNN? Well, Ballaban gives us his take on its own protracted apocalypse.
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