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Connie Chung takes on ''The O'Reilly Factor''

Connie Chung takes on ”The O’Reilly Factor” — The new CNN hire will have to attract a different audience to beat Fox News’ popular news show

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Connie Chung
Connie Chung: Michael O'Neil

Pssst, just between us: Not everyone’s bullish about CNN catch Connie Chung’s chances against Fox News Channel’s conservative curmudgeon Bill O’Reilly. It’s Chung’s job to fill Greta Van Susteren’s old slot opposite ”The O’Reilly Factor,” the most-watched news show on cable TV. ”If you want to counter the appeal of a right-wing talk-show host who’s particularly political, it certainly isn’t a good move,” says Jay Rosen, NYU’s journalism department chair.

But CNN’s not as interested in providing an alternative to O’Reilly’s partisan shtick as it is in ”expanding news viewership in general — we want to attract viewers from all parts of TV, including [those who usually watch] ‘Friends,”’ says Sid Bedingfield, CNN/US’ general manager. Either way, Chung’s show — a mix of in-studio interviews and news reports — doesn’t exactly have O’Reilly and Co. shaking in their tasseled loafers.

While a Fox News rep would only say, ”We respect her as a journalist and wish her well,” O’Reilly (who declined to comment) seemed more skeptical on a recent ”Factor,” when he craftily interviewed a TV critic as a way to address Chung’s hiring. ”The traditional news presentation on cable doesn’t work,” he said. ”You’ve got to give people more. You’ve got to give them something of yourself.” Of course, if Connie really wants to shake things up, she could import guests from hubby Maury Povich’s show.