CNN anchor raves about Jacksonville airport, UNF and city after debate
By Topher Sanders
The Florida Times-Union.
January 28, 2012

Jacksonville got a lot of love this week from Erin Burnett, who hosts a nightly show on CNN.

The host of “Erin Burnett OutFront” was in town for the Republican presidential candidate debate and because of a delay spent a little more time at Jacksonville International Airport than anticipated.

It was enough time for Burnett to say JIA is “what I think might be America’s best airport.”

During her show Friday night, Burnett raved about the airport’s open spaces, clean bright stores, live music, art gallery and “real live people offering help and smiling and actually inviting you to talk to them.”

Michael Stewart, spokesman for the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, called Burnett’s comments “the greatest commercial in the history of the Jacksonville airport.”

She said JIA “does pretty much everything right.”

Burnett also praised the University of North Florida, which hosted the debate, talking about its “beautiful campus” and growing global logistics training program.

John Delaney said CNN crewmembers and personalities were complimentary of the university throughout their stay. Several crews stayed on campus longer than intended to shoot their shows because of their fondness for the campus.

“For UNF it was a bit of a coming-out party,” he said.

Delaney said he was chatting with CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer right before Thursday’s debate when Blitzer praised the university.

“ ‘This has got to be the prettiest campus I’ve ever been on,’ ” Delaney said of Blitzer’s comments “ ‘You guys have to increase your marketing budget because you’ve got a great story to tell.’ ”

Jerry Mallot, executive vice president of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, said the city couldn’t buy the type of publicity Burnett’s comments provide.

“It’s helps people to want to know more about Jacksonville and hopefully those are people who want to move to Jacksonville or do business here,” Mallot said. “Overall it helps to develop our reputation which helps the city become more successful.”

All in all, Burnett said, Jacksonville is “a pretty neat city to discover.”

Stewart couldn’t agree more.

“It’s a testament not only to the airport and the Aviation Authority but to Jacksonville as a whole,” Stewart said. “A lot of people that come from out of town recognize Jacksonville as a true jewel of a city in so many aspects.”

Burnett, whose show airs at 7 p.m. weeknights on CNN, joined one of her network colleagues in praising all things River City.

Blitzer, who hosted the debate, earned cheers and social media shout-outs when he described UNF as “beautiful” and “fabulous” just before the candidates faced off.