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THE SUNDAY CONVERSATION

Positive stories? It's news to her

December 03, 2006|Matea Gold

"MY slippers are definitely getting more wear than they did," said Daryn Kagan, the former CNN anchor who left the cable network this fall to start darynkagan.com, "an inspirational online community" aimed at showcasing "stories that make your heart go ZING!" Recent subjects: a double amputee training for the Ironman triathlon and a man with cerebral palsy who paints with his nose. The new venture is quite a departure from Kagan's two-decade-long career in television news, which took her from a local Santa Barbara station to a 12-year stint at CNN. These days, instead of reporting live from CNN Center, the 43-year-old anchors a daily webcast in front of a blazing fireplace in her Atlanta home.

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Why did you think that there was an appetite for this type of story?

I think in the traditional media there's kind of a sense that if it bleeds, it leads, and that's all that people want to see and experience. I'm not bashing news.... I think it's really important to be informed. I just also think it's important to be inspired.

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Do you find that there were challenges in doing stories like this at CNN?

I think the mission is just different for a place like CNN. I'm not out to change anybody else's mission. I'm just glad that I found mine.

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Where did you first get this idea?

These were always the type of stories that made my heart sing, and I think different versions of it were in the back of my head. And then in January, CNN came to me and told me that after 12 years, they were not going to renew my contract. I never asked why. I just took it as a sign that, you know what, that thing that's been sticking in the back of your head, it's time to go do that.

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After being there for so long, were you sad to leave?

I had my sad for a few months. But there comes a time when it's time to put the sad away and get going.

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What kind of stories do you look for?

It's important to point out that it's not just happy news. I look at it as hopeful news. Bad things do happen in the world, like war, natural disasters, disease. But out of those situations always arise stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

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Why do you think this idea has drawn some mockery?

I think, not to knock the mainstream media, but there is a sense of, you know, "How we do it is the only way to do it," and that's just wrong.

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Someone had registered your domain name already. How did you get it back?

I thought, what is this website really about? Is it about love or hate? I had the guy's e-mail and I wrote to him. I didn't mention what I wanted the site for, I didn't mention money, I didn't mention lawyers. The next day I talked to him on the phone for 15 or 20 minutes. He thought about it and said, "I think I was meant to have it and hold on to it so nobody else would take advantage of you." And by that night, he gave it back. Not a dime passed hands.

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How is it that you have been able to maintain a sense of optimism after working in an industry that is filled with a lot of cynicism?

I think even beyond being a news person, we all have a life view -- the world is a good place, the world is a bad place. We all run around gathering stories to support whatever view we have about life. And I've just come to develop this view that I'm looking for the positive, so that's what I stress and that's what I look for. And it's amazing that when you do that, that's what comes into your life.

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Has that always been your attitude?

I've definitely become a more spiritual person in the last few years -- not any particular religion, but just looking for greater meaning and powers outside of ourselves. That's also something that's never talked about in the secular media.... In a regular newsroom, you do not do a story that mentions God, unless it's something horrendous, like a priest molesting a little boy.

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Do you think the media are missing an opportunity to tell these stories?

It's not for me to say. I think there's a lot of news corporations making a lot of money, and they're doing just fine. It just presents an opportunity for other people out there to present stories in a different light.

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-- Matea Gold

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