So when Ted Turner and CNN were prepared for the worst, they were just being prudent.


Since we acquired the video some time ago, and especially since its publication, both former and current CNN staffers have approached us about its use. Most were bemused; the worst-kept open secret in the company was now out in the open.

Fuzz Hogan, former CNN employee for nearly 20 years, Midwest bureau chief and head of the national desk, told us that he was first introduced to it on his first day on the job, before he even left training:

Thousands of people received the training in playback, and as far as I know, most if not all heard of this (I mean, it's possible the person who trained me had unique knowledge and only shared it with a few, but it was definitely presented as a "oh, by the way, here's something funny." I have no memory of who actually trained me. At that stage, just a few weeks in, we were being trained on new things almost every day (TelePrompter, camera, script-ripping, etc.).

If I recall correctly, half the training for that position at Headline News was in playback (where you load the tapes into machines so the technical director can play them from the board in the control room), and half was in Master Control where, in those days, a more grown-up person controlled Master itself (going to breaks) and your sole job in that hour-long shift was to switch the one-inch reels that recorded air. As part of showing me around master control, my trainer said something like "and check this out," and showed me a drawer with a piece of paper taped to it that said indicated it should be the last tape played on CNN and Headline News and suggested that would be the end of the world. It was something of a parlor game to guess what the tape would be. The truth, as you reported, was among the guesses, so I'm assuming the truth was known around the building.

But, to be honest, it didn't come up much. The kind of thing you'd tell non-CNN friends, just like you'd tell them about the obituary shelf, where we had obits ready for people who were alive... that sort of thing.


But though the tape itself is treated around the offices as an amusing relic, an archivist who still works for CNN told us that the video itself serves a serious purpose today:

Yes, it is legitimate and new employees tend to be "initiated" by being shown videos like the Doomsday one. My very first boss (as an intern in DC) showed all of us the video to demonstrate how the system worked. It's a great example because it explains how Holds & other metadata requirements can be used.


It turns out CNN has an official protocol for how the tape would be handled in the event of the apocalypse; the first step requires a staffer at the Library Reference Desk to sign off on the tape's use.

This seems reasonable on its face. But if you were the second-to-last last CNN employee on Earth, would you really go looking for a librarian?


Illustration by Jim Cooke