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Eve Burton abruptly left her GC post at Cable News Network in July 2001, in the wake of her controversial decision to support publication of a parody called “The Wind Done Gone.” The departure of this First Amendment champion sparked a public protest from 18 of the network’s big names, including Greta Van Susteren, Judy Woodruff and Christiane Amanpour. Now, some might say, Burton has come out on top: She’s landed a bigger, better job — at The Hearst Corp. Burton started work, as general counsel-designate, at the New York-based, privately held media empire in November. But she won’t take over Hearst’s 20-lawyer department until longtime GC Jonathan Thackeray retires in March. Unorthodox? Yes. But Burton lauds the long transition: “I’m doing a lot of listening and learning; it’s absolutely the way any GC should learn about a company.” Hearst, home to such familiar magazines as Esquire and Good Housekeeping, also encompasses cable networks like ESPN, Internet businesses, radio and TV stations, and a dozen daily newspapers. Although the precise reasons for Burton’s exit from CNN were never made public, insiders point to personality differences with Louise Sams, executive vice president and GC of Turner Broadcasting System Inc., the news network’s immediate parent in the AOL Time Warner Inc. dynasty. Burton, who was CNN’s chief legal counsel from 2000 to 2001, was an aggressive First Amendment advocate there. In 2000 she led the network’s successful efforts to gain access to audiotapes of U.S. Supreme Court arguments in Bush v. Gore. When a federal judge halted publication of “The Wind Done Gone,” a parody of “Gone with the Wind,” Burton joined other news organizations in an amicus brief arguing prior restraint. CNN reporters supported the move. But other AOL Time Warner divisions, which owned the rights to the 1939 movie classic and to an authorized book sequel, viewed the fight as a copyright contest. After Burton left CNN, the company’s name was removed from a subsequent amicus brief. Post-CNN, Burton resumed teaching a law course at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. She had developed the class in 1999, while serving as deputy legal counsel at Daily News LLP, owner of the New York Daily News. Her passion for constitutional issues of press access dates back to her own Columbia Law School days. Does Burton foresee copyright vs. freedom of the press conflicts at Hearst? “I’m a First Amendment lawyer, but I’m also a team player,” she says firmly. And she suggests that welcome differences exist between AOL Time Warner and Hearst. At the latter: “Many of the senior brass are journalists themselves.”

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