CNN is cleaning house after Chris Licht was abruptly removed from his role as CEO. While the news brings joy to some, others are concerned that Warner Bros. Discovery executives will soon come in and clean out the entire organization.
Licht was appointed head honcho of the cable news organization in May of 2022 to replace Jeff Zucker, but his tenure was anything but easy. The difficult decisions had to be made early on when Licht oversaw the termination of contracts of hundreds of employees from the now-defunct streaming platform CNN+.
Tim Alberta’s 15,000-word piece for The Atlantic painted a picture of arrogance and hubris that was echoed by former CNN anchor Brian Stelter and other reporters who took issue with the CEO’s handling of conflicts within the organization. Licht's insensitive comments about CNN’s COVID coverage— implying that the network was engaged in “shaming” and “need[ing] the ratings and clicks”— only exacerbated his unpopularity among the rank and file.
The conflict came to a head following President Trump’s town hall on the network, with Oliver Darcy’s scathing report of the network’s failure to provide an appropriate sense of truth and trust being one of the final nails in Licht’s tenure.
Now, with Licht out, there is a sense among CNN’s rank and file that Warner Bros. Discovery executives will begin to “clean house” which could potentially see many current and former employees looking for a new jobs.
Dan Abrams, founder of Mediaite and a veteran of the cable news industry, weighed in on the situation. “CNN’s bigger problems aren’t really about Chris Licht. The more significant issue is that David Zaslav clearly wants to position CNN as a more non-partisan network. . more centrist. . and even though they won’t admit it, many of CNN’s rank and file just aren’t on board with that mission,” he said. “They are convinced that their more left leaning worldview is the correct one, the only one. So the only way WBD could really achieve its broader goals is to make some serious changes at various levels of the organization.”
As CNN looks to the future, the network is arguably stuck between a rock and a hard place. Americans may not be as eager to find unbiased news in the hot-take media landscape, and yet polls suggest that this is what they are demanding. The network’s editorial future may hinge on the new leadership that will be put in place following the ouster of Chris Licht.