Op-Ed: A Letter to Ted Turner, CNN Founder


Ted Turner and Evan Michaeli pose in Newport, RI. Photo courtesy of Michaeli

I had the privilege to meet CNN Founder Ted Turner on September 11. This is a letter I wrote addressed to him.

Dear Ted Turner,

I will admit: I usually have CNN open on my laptop at all times, and I enjoy watching the Atlanta Braves when they are not playing the Red Sox. Plus, I cannot get that catchy song from Captain Planet and the Planeteers out of my head.

There is no doubt that you left an indelible mark on journalism, sports, and the environment. And the cross-section between your accomplishments and my interests makes you one of my idols. 

Meeting you was one of the happiest moments of my life. It is rare to have the opportunity to meet an icon you look up to, and I am grateful that I had the chance.

You especially enjoyed the thrill of racing on the sea. You led your Courageous crew to victory in the America’s Cup in 1977

Your fervor for competition continued when you started the Goodwill Games in 1986 to alleviate tension between capitalist and communist countries at the height of the Cold War by using sport. The first edition in Moscow featured over three thousand athletes from seventy-nine countries. 

You were also a pioneer in Atlanta sports. While you had a stake in three teams, the biggest impact was in the Atlanta Braves. Your leadership spawned the Braves dynasty in the ‘90s, and in 1995, the Atlanta Braves reached the pinnacle of baseball, World Series champions after defeating the then-Cleveland Indians. After the Centennial Olympic Games in 1996 in the city of Atlanta, the Olympic Stadium became the permanent home of the Braves. Instead of choosing major brands from the area like Coca-Cola or Delta, the Braves changed the name to Turner Field in your honor.

Your love for sports struck me. You brought light to Southern sports with the turn of the Braves. And your courageous victory in Newport forty-five years ago highlights your zeal. Nowadays, my second favorite baseball team is the Atlanta Braves, and that is partially due to your work as owner.

You were a trailblazer in the media world. In 1980, you found CNN and initiated the first 24-hour live broadcasting station. Critics believed you would fail, but you didn’t give up.  Luckily, CNN blossomed. CNN’s coverage of major events in the eighties and early nineties set the network apart. CNN was the only network to televise the horrific explosion of the Challenger shuttle from NASA. CNN continues to be a force in media today – on screen, digitally, and in the city of Atlanta. 

You weren’t done with television, though. In 1992, you launched Cartoon Network, a channel dedicated to children and cartoons. Yet again, people criticized you for the channel, yet you stuck with your decision. Cartoon Network became a staple in many households. Even I enjoy the network from time to time.

As a journalist, it is important for me to establish a news source to gather my information. I always look toward CNN for new articles and information. Your work in the media inspires me to be a better journalist and to continue when critics push me down. CNN is a lesson that journalism can be an important medium of communication, and it is a great influence on me.

“The power is yours!”  This powerful message spread throughout the globe through the series Captain Planet and the Planeteers.’ In the 1990s, you aired the show to call for environmental action from youth. The show features five youths around the world carrying powers from a certain aspect of environmentalism.

You definitely harnessed the power. You currently strive to conserve bison, having the largest herd privately in the world. In Montana, you own the Flying D Ranch, an over-100,000-acre farm to help save bison. Now, your ranches span from Montana to South Dakota. When an epidemic of Mycoplasma struck the bison population at Turner Ranches, your team completed research with laboratories to ensure a vaccine would be available for bison populations, protecting them from the horrors of the disease. In addition to the conservation efforts, your restaurant, Ted’s Montana Grill, is known for its bison burgers, using bison from your ranches.

As an environmentalist, your dedication to the environment has been inspiring. Captain Planet and the Planeteers share a powerful approach to world problems, and your bison ranches serve as a premium in the conservation space of endangered species. I have to say, I tried one of those bison burgers in Atlanta, and it was tasty!

I am grateful for all the work you have done in the fields of my interests, and I hope that I can make you proud in those areas. 

Evan Michaeli 

Unfortunately, Turner was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia in 2018. When his daughter Laura Turner Seydel spoke at the LIFE ITSELF conference in San Diego, giving an update on her father’s status, I had the opportunity to meet with her.

After her talk, I walked up to Seydel to talk about Turner, however after a few minutes, she introduced me to the Captain Planet Foundation. Nowadays, I serve as a Youth Wisdom Council member for the foundation, helping lead a chapter of Captain Planet known as Planeteer Alliance. 

Seydel herself has some major environmental achievements. Seydel pioneered the board as Chair of Captain Planet Foundation, and other initiatives such as the United Nations Foundation, Waterkeeper Alliance, and International Union for Conservation of Nature. Seydel was also the first to construct a house that reached LEED-gold standard, a testament of her environmentalism.

The School’s Environmental Club will host Seydel on November 14 for their weekly meeting. The Club would love to have attendees.