Robert Redford, unveiling new CNN show ‘Chicagoland,’ calls Rahm Emanuel ‘tough, visionary’

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Rahm Emanuel, Robert Redford. (Photoillustration.)
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CNN has teamed up with a Hollywood big-shot on the latest addition to its growing slate of documentary offerings.

Robert Redford will co-executive produce a non-scripted eight-part original series called "Chicagoland" about the "real-life drama" of the city's post-economic-crisis challenges, the network announced today.

Or, as L.A. Times media reporter Joe Flint put it on Twitter: "The Wire as a reality show?"

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"Chicagoland" is scheduled to debut in early 2014.

“The vibrant culture and opportunities inherent in this 21st century, world-class city run alongside profound daily challenges,” said Redford in a statement. “Much of it falls on the shoulders of its tough, visionary mayor, his team and people doing heroic work in neighborhoods throughout the city. Chicago has always had a rhythm all its own. It’s a city that wears its heart on its sleeve and I am honored to be a part of telling this story."

Redford is the latest boldfaced name to join CNN's crusade to reverse a longtime slump in viewership by diversifying its programming. The network recently debuted a new series by Anthony Bourdain and is cooking up a Morgan Spurlock production as well.

Though CNN's documentary push was already underway before Jeff Zucker was named C.E.O. last fall, it dovetails with a broader personality shakeup at the ratings-challenged network. The high-profile NBC alumnus has brought a certain tabloid sensibility to CNN while adding journalistic heavyweights like Jake Tapper and Chris Cuomo to its roster.

Jeff Bewkes, C.E.O. of CNN's parent company, Time Warner, seems pleased with Zucker's strategy so far.

"He's working out great," Bewkes said during a conference this week. "Watch CNN, and you see a lot more bounce in its step these days."

On Capital...

'Pink slips for a dozen-plus 'Daily News' staffers; vets Joanna Molloy and Albor Ruiz among them

'Times' editor Jill Abramson likes 'snowfalling' a lot better than 'native advertising'

Elsewhere...

One could argue that coverage of Amanda Berry rescuer Charles Ramsey is perpetuating "The Troubling Viral Trend of the 'Hilarious' Black Neighbor." [Slate]

Andrew Sullivan's salary is $0. [The Dish]

Why did Howard Kurtz's Dailly Download collaborator Lauren Ashburn get an office at The Daily Beast? [Gawker]

More on the Kurtz-Ashburn connection. [WaPo/Erik Wemple]

Revenue from AOL's media sites jumped 14 percent in the last quarter. [Reuters]

Emma Carmichael is taking over The Hairpin from Edith Zimmerman. [The Hairpin]

New mags hit the Hamptons in time for summer. [New York Post]

A longtime ABC News editor surprised supportive colleagues with his decision to transition to being female. [New York Post]

A newspaper ad exec dishes on what newspapers are doing wrong. [Digiday]

Quote of the day...

Media reporting connects best with the general public when it is about something other than itself. When it is about false reports about bombing suspects and weapons of mass destruction or how natural disasters and national tragedies unfolded in real time. When it is connected to big news events — elections, foreign policy — and explains how they unfold.

Peter Lauria

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Rachel Maddow to Politifact: "You are ruining" fact-checking:

From our inbox...

Steven Brill's huge health care story for Time appears to be having an impact, per a spokesperson for the magazine:

Partly in response to TIME's Bitter Pill investigation by Steven Brill into hospital charges, the Obama Admin's Health and Human Resources Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is announcing today a groundbreaking initiative that will take a lot of the secrecy out of hospital billings.

Steven Brill reports on TIME.com: "Sebelius will release a data file that shows the list—or 'chargemaster'—prices by all hospitals across the country for the 100 most common inpatient treatment services in 2011. It then compares those prices with what Medicare actually paid hospitals for the same treatments – which was typically a fraction of the chargemaster prices… In the same announcement, Sebelius is offering $87 million dollars to the states to create what she calls 'health care data pricing centers.' The centers will make pricing transparency more local and user friendly than the giant data file she is releasing this morning."

CMS public affairs director Brian Cook tells Brill that Sebelius’ action today comes in part in response to TIME’s special report on healthcare pricing practices in the March 4 issue, “Bitter Pill.”

Richard Engel has gone back to Syria post kidnapping:

NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel and his production team traveled into Syria early this morning to investigate the purported use of chemical weapons and speak directly with rebel leaders and supporters about the civil war that has already claimed the lives of over 70,000 people.

Engel’s reports will appear across the platforms of NBC News beginning Wednesday, May 8, including “NBC Nightly News,” and NBCNews.com.