CNN Vet Alan Duke Jumps to Radar Online

For the past five and a half years, for all but one month, Alan Duke’s byline has been the number one desktop-views attraction at CNN Digital. During that one month in question, Duke went on vacation for three weeks.

More specifically, for the first nine months of 2014, Duke’s byline attracted a staggering 300 million desktop page views. His most notable recent CNN item was a September 18 report, with Susan Candiotti, that Yorkville Endoscopy clinic workers told investigators they saw and heard Joan Rivers‘ personal doctor take a selfie with the unconscious entertainer.

Although Duke was spared in the latest round of CNN layoffs, the journalist – who had been with CNN since 1989 – decided it was time to leave. As of this week, he is the Los Angeles-based national correspondent for revamping AMI website Radar Online.

“Last month, there was an event that really told me this was the time to leave,” Duke tells FishbowlNY via telephone. “We had an internal “huddle” [meeting] for CNN Digital, which was both a pep talk and an update on business affairs. In the executives’ statements and voices, I just picked up panic and chaos.”

Other issues for Duke included the manner in which CNN Digital senior vice president and GM Kenny Estenson was dismissed (via telephone while on vacation in Maui with his family) and a mission statement that CNN Digital needed to “better compete” with BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post.

“I have nothing against BuzzFeed,” Duke notes. “They do a lot of things well. It’s just that the kind of depth and context I try to bring to entertainment news stories is something different. The idea that we were going to go after trending topics the way BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post do was my signal to call Dylan [Howard] back [at Radar Online] and say, ‘Let’s talk.'”

CNN Digital originally created Duke’s position with money saved from switching away from the AP. Coincidentally, AP is the outlet for which Duke scored his first major exclusive. While working as a teenager for a Georgia radio station, he learned through a local mortician of the death in March 1975 of actress Susan Hayward. He was stringing for AP at the time and put it on the wire once he realized he was the only one with the information.

Duke, a multi-platform journalist who prides himself on strong item sourcing, checked in with close friend and one-time CNN confidant Tom Johnson before making the move to Radar. He will continue to roam Los Angeles, from Starbucks to the court houses, to blanket his beat. “Have laptop, will travel” he notes enthusiastically.

@hollywoodspin Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.