Atlanta’s Victor Blackwell debuts CNN weekend show

He said he has the freedom to choose stories he thinks are important to highlight
Victor Blackwell, a CNN anchor since 2012, has been back to Atlanta after two years in New York. CNN

Credit: CNN

Credit: CNN

Victor Blackwell, a CNN anchor since 2012, has been back to Atlanta after two years in New York. CNN

All of CNN’s weekday anchors emanate from New York or Washington D.C. but for many years, the network has used Atlanta for at least a portion of its weekend programming.

And as part of a steady shift in programming for the network in recent weeks, Atlanta-based anchor Victor Blackwell has received his own weekly show, which began at 8 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 4 out of CNN Center. That space is gradually being emptied out as CNN has been moving operations out of its seminal downtown building and to the Midtown campus. (Blackwell said his new Midtown studio won’t be ready for at least a couple of months.)

He will continue to co-anchor the 6 and 7 a.m. hours Saturday as news-focused hours but will have more freedom to design the 8 a.m. hour to his liking. Called “First of All with Victor Blackwell,” it won’t be an opinion show, but he’ll be able to pick stories that interest him.

“This is a place where I get to stretch out and try some new things,” said Blackwell in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Friday, the day before the show’s official debut. “It’s different from what I’ve done the past 11 years as a straight news anchor. My goal is to inform the stories of the week, add some context and introduce some new voices.”

Blackwell said he will make a “concerted and deliberate intention to highlight some stores of people of color and how stories impact communities of color.”

And since his show is based in Atlanta, he will feature voices from the area. Two were featured on his first show Saturday morning: Edward Ahmed Mitchell, national deputy director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), to talk about the war between Israel and Hamas, and Janani Raibhandari-Thapa, associate professor at the University professor at the University of Georgia College of Public Health to discuss depression among minority students.

Blackwell said he plans to maintain a certain level of propriety during his show. “I don’t want to undermine the work I do during the 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. hours,” he said. “Those first two hours will be the big stories that dominate the network. The 8 a.m. hour will enable me to introduce some stories that maybe you hadn’t heard about all week. Having that opportunity is a privilege.”

The big difference, he noted, is “story selection. I won’t tell you what to think.”

Blackwell, a 42-year-old Smyrna resident, grew up in Baltimore and graduated from Howard University. After 10 years in local news, he joined CNN in 2012. He is single with no kids, pets or even plants. “I live simply,” he said. “When I get home, everything is in its place where I left it when I walked out the door.”

He loves collecting art and will feature artists who have a connection to the news. On Saturday, he highlighted artist Tariq Oliver, whose art shows trauma on human faces during a time where the world is facing all sorts of trauma.

On TV, when he isn’t watching news, he prefers dramas like “The Crown,” “Succession,” “Severance,” and “Winning Time” over sitcoms or reality TV. “I get enough reality at work,” he said.

After nine years in Atlanta, Blackwell was sent up o New York for 22 months but was able to return to Atlanta this year.

“Atlanta to me will always be headquarters,” he said. “This is CNN’s birthplace. We open the show to the Atlanta skyline and a backdrop that will show the skyline. I want people to know this is deliberate. I am in Atlanta, not New York or D.C.”

This will also be the first time Blackwell will go solo in front of the camera instead of sharing the desk with a co- anchor. “I get to have a more direct conversation with the viewer,” he said.


Victor Blackwell, 8 a.m. Saturdays on CNN