Walsh gives up control to get back on TV

AP Television WriterJuly 11, 2014 

TV-CNN-John Walsh

FILE - This Oct. 12, 2009 file photo shows TV personality John Walsh at the premiere of "The Stepfather" in New York. Walsh, who chased fugitives for 26 years, first on Fox's "America's Most Wanted" and a short postscript on Lifetime, returns Sunday on CNN (9 p.m. EDT) with a new show, "The Hunt."

EVAN AGOSTINI, FILE — AP Photo

— To get back into television, John Walsh had to relinquish some of the control that he'd grown used to.

Walsh, who chased fugitives for 26 years, first on Fox's "America's Most Wanted" and a short postscript on Lifetime, returns Sunday on CNN (9 p.m. EDT) with a new show, "The Hunt." After years where he made his own program, this time the production team behind Anthony Bourdain's "Parts Unknown" was assigned to the show by CNN chief Jeff Zucker.

"The hardest thing is the letting go and the squashing of ego when you've been successful," Walsh, 68, said.

He measures success with statistics, saying his efforts to publicize crimes and encourage viewers to tip authorities contributed to the capture of 1,231 fugitives and the recovery of 61 missing children.

That scorecard, however, may have contributed to the downfall of "America's Most Wanted." Walsh said that in its last few years, he was obsessed with getting as many cases on the air as possible, to the show's detriment.

"It became overwhelming," he said. "We would have re-creations that were two minutes long. You never got a sense of the victims. You never got a sense of what was going on. We were old and tired."

"The Hunt" slows down and tries to tell a story. The first hour-long episode concentrates on the case of Shane Miller, a California man suspected of killing his wife and two daughters last year. Most of the CNN shows will have one case or two.

Working with Zero Point Zero Productions took a huge pressure off him, Walsh said.

Zucker, the longtime executive producer of the "Today" show before moving up in management, said he grew up in the business with Walsh. "The Hunt" is part of his effort to create destination nonfiction shows to sustain CNN during slow news periods.

"Part of what we're trying to do at CNN is do good storytelling and good work," he said. "I think John exemplifies both of them."

"The Hunt" is soon to announce a partnership with Facebook to promote Amber Alerts. Although Walsh is eager to use social media for his crime-fighting efforts, he said the vast majority of tips he generates is through television.

"I will always be the parent of a murdered child," said Walsh, whose efforts began after the 1981 kidnapping of his 6-year-old son Adam. "I will always be that angry, driven guy."

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David Bauder can be reached at dbauder@ap.org or on Twitter@bauder. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/david-bauder.

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Online:

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