[guest post by JVW]
Things at the Cable News Network (you never hear anybody use the full name any longer, do you?) have gone from bad, to really bad, to worse. Even after the network cleared out its stables of much of the idiotic and deadweight “talent” that they were putting on screens every night, CNN remains mired in low ratings, regularly getting clobbered by Fox and MSNBC, but incredibly enough also losing to Newsmax in some important timeslots. The network which pioneered the cable news format has been riven by a huge internal debate as to whether to continue as an ideologically-driven opinion outlet, which served it reasonably well — financially if not reputationally — during the Trump years though also makes it most vulnerable to competitors, or to return to more of a straight news reporting site (even one that leans somewhat to the left), a strategy which theoretically would broaden its appeal but which perhaps has become passé in these divided times.
The CEO who replaced the horrid Jeff Zucker chose a strategy of broadening the network’s appeal, and he has been shown the door
Chris Licht is out as CNN CEO after growing criticism over the network’s Donald Trump town hall as well as the release of an Atlantic profile that did not go over well with staffers.
Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav had defended Licht’s efforts to move the network away from the oppositional stance it adopted toward Republicans in the Trump era, but the outgoing CEO appears to have lost Zaslav’s support after the publication of a biting Atlantic profile by Tim Alberta, in which Licht was quoted disparaging CNN’s Trump era journalism.
[. . .]
In his attempt to reshape the network, Licht promised a reset with Republican voters. Part of that was to hear from the Republican frontrunner Donald Trump in an event moderated by host Kaitlan Collins. He also moved Collins, a former writer for the conservative publication the Daily Caller, to a primetime show from her previous post on CNN This Morning.
It was probably too much too soon for a bunch of snowflake lefty journalists to bear, but Mr. Licht will at least go down in history as the guy who got rid of some of the most obnoxious names in cable media:
The CNN chief articulated a “facts-only approach,” trying to steal viewers from Fox News and MSNBC by pursuing aggressive nonpartisan reporting. Licht fired “off mission” staffers like John Harwood and Brian Stelter.
Don Lemon would have been axed early on as well if he wasn’t one of the lone black voices at the network, the Atlantic reported. The controversial host was ultimately fired after a sexist comment toward presidential Nikki Haley as well as the release of a Variety exposé.
Watch the new CEO hire all of them back. (Actually that probably won’t happen since all of them come with grossly inflated salaries that the struggling network probably doesn’t want to pay.) For his part, Mr. Licht claimed that he wasn’t seeking to purge a center-left orientation to the network so much as he was trying to dial-back a drift towards elite cultural sensibilities. One way of looking at it is that he wanted the network to be more like Joe Biden as a candidate in 2020, not like Joe Biden as President the past two-and-a-half years. That seems to me to be very sound advice, and it will be interesting to see if the new boss heeds it or if the network inevitably returns to the bad old days of shrill faculty lounge leftism.