CNN chief Chris Licht told staffers on Monday that he wanted to help them make the news rather than be a central figure in it.
Following a devastating profile of the CNN CEO published by The Atlantic on Friday, Licht set about soothing frayed nerves on Monday by telling employees on the media outlet’s regular morning call that “I shouldn’t be in the news unless it takes arrows for you. It is on your work that it is necessary to write , according to two people close to the file.
The lyrics are Licht’s first to be made public since the piece’s unveiling. Through a rich vein of unfettered access provided over the months, the article detailed the executive’s struggles – and some of his insecurities – during his first year working at the Warner Bros-backed outlet. . Discovery. David Zaslav, the parent company’s CEO, has devised a strategy to weed out some of the militant streak that resonated at CNN under its former chief, Jeff Zucker. But Licht’s efforts to do so have been plagued by near-constant leaks and a restless staff, many of whom remain loyal to Licht’s predecessor, who was ousted after admitting a longtime relationship with Allison Gollust, the former director of the CNN marketing.
“To those whose trust I have lost, I will fight like hell to regain it, because you deserve a leader who will be in the trenches, fighting to keep CNN the most trusted name in the world in the news,” Licht said, according to people familiar with the meeting.
Licht also informed staff members that he would be moving to a new office adjacent to CNN’s news gathering team in New York. The executive was previously located in an area a few floors above the journalism staff, who had become accustomed to Zucker sitting in the middle of them. The move comes as Warner Bros. Discovery is revamping some of its leased properties at its New York headquarters at the Hudson Yards complex.
He may have new margins to forge better links with his editorial team. Last week, Warner Bros. Discovery has installed a new chief operating officer at CNN. David Leavy, Zaslav’s longtime lieutenant, is expected to take over business functions, including marketing, advertising and distribution.
The CNN chief’s tribulations have become regular food for media aficionados. Since arriving last spring, Licht has set about renovating CNN, toning down some of the emotions the anchors had been allowed to express when the news aired. In recent months, staff members who often wore hearts on their sleeves, including Don Lemon and Brian Stelter, have gone missing. Meanwhile, Licht has struggled to beat rivals like Fox News and MSNBC, which often rely on free hosts to voice their opinions and pound the office — metaphorically, if not physically. And CNN’s ratings plummeted.
It unveiled a series of new, more current events. A daytime ‘News Central’ concept gives viewers more of a real-time newsroom feel, while Kaitlan Collins and Dana Bash are set to debut two new hours of programming soon. A new Sunday series, “The Whole Story,” takes viewers through an hour-long deep dive into a new topic each week.
Some efforts have not been successful. CNN’s new morning program ‘CNN This Morning’ flopped after a new trio of co-hosts – Lemon, Collins and Poppy Harlow – struggled to come together thanks in part to Lemon’s efforts to be provocative . Lemon was ousted from CNN in April, and Harlow now runs the program with a rotating array of co-hosts.
The next few months will likely reveal whether Warner Bros. Discovery looks at windmills. News executives routinely acknowledge that direct news, presented without any kind of argument or conflict, struggles to win new audiences in the current climate.
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