With Christ Licht now out as CEO at CNN, the network is reportedly a “house on fire” with several additional employees having been fired, and the remaining employees now concerned about their own future going forward.
“Everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief today [about Licht’s ouster]. While people are happy that Licht is gone, there’s still a sense of dread that the turmoil is going to continue,” a former CNN producer told the New York Post this Wednesday.
The turmoil did initially continue with Warner Bros. Discovery, the network’s parent company, also firing the senior vice president of communications Matt Dornic, and Kris Coratti Kelly, the EVP and global head of communications and marketing.
Both former employees had reportedly played a pivotal role in contributing to The Atlantic article that precipitated Licht’s ouster. As previously reported, The Atlantic published a damning profile of CNN under Licht on June 2nd.
The profile reportedly led directly to Licht’s firing.
— BPR based (@DumpstrFireNews) June 3, 2023
Part of the problem going forward is that Licht’s temporary replacements — Virginia Moseley, Eric Sherling, and Amy Entelis — are reportedly even worse than him.
“She is a tyrant. She has no people skills whatsoever. She is iron-fisted and demanded everyone show up to work after the pandemic,” one of Moseley’s former co-workers told the Post.
“She can be harsh and belittling. She’s not abusive but she will tell you if you’re terrible. If she doesn’t like the outcome of something, she will go around her colleagues instead of working with them,” another source added.
“Eric is a fine cable TV programmer. He’s fine but unspectacular. He’s not a leader, he’s not a visionary, he’s not a strategist,” a former colleague of Sherling said.
“I’m sure the guy has friends. He’s got zero personality and zero people skills and that’s a problem,” another source added.
As for Entelis, a source described her as “a great producer” and a “calming” force “for the talent” but stressed that she’s 72 years old. Another problem for CNN is that nobody is certain what Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav wants for the network.
“Journalists and other employees up and down the network are wondering what Zaslav wants CNN to be. Many are concerned that he will remain committed to a ‘both sides’ vision that sounds strategically wise in the boardroom but tactically fails on live TV,” former CNN reporter Brian Stelter reported Wednesday for The Washington Post.
“Over time, anchors and producers came to believe that Zaslav and Licht wanted CNN to be the Food Network but for news — inoffensive, predictable, safe to leave on in the living room all day. As one CNN anchor told me, ‘If you try to be all things to all people, you’re not anything to anybody,'” he added.
CNNers hope to hear from Zaslav about all this. They are wondering, as one on-air personality put it, if Licht’s exit represents “a real change of direction” or if Zaslav will just “find someone more competent & less obnoxious to execute the same vision.” https://t.co/I6UIbgQman
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) June 8, 2023
CNN was originally an objective news network. During the Trump presidency, it effectively became an extremely partisan, left-wing “news” network dedicated to attacking then-President Donald Trump and the Republican Party.
When Licht was installed at CNN by Zaslav in May of 2022, he sought to undo this partisanship by firing the network’s most partisan hosts, including Stelter, and pivoting CNN away from partisan programming and toward actual objective news and analysis.
But this move provoked a massive backlash from CNN’s growing audience of left-wing fanatics, including calls for everyone to boycott the network.
The backlash eventually exploded when Licht had CNN hold a town hall for former President Donald Trump, a man universally hated on the left. The following morning, all hell broke loose inside CNN when Licht celebrated the town hall on a morning call.
“Lots of CNN employees on that morning call disagreed with Licht. They thought his execution of the event had been dreadful; they believed his tactical decisions had essentially ceded control of the town hall to Trump, put Collins in an impossible position, and embarrassed everyone involved with the production,” The Atlantic piece about CNN under Licht reads.
“These opinions were widely held—and almost entirely irrelevant. Everyone at CNN had long ago come to realize that Licht was playing for an audience of one. It didn’t matter what they thought, or what other journalists thought, or even what viewers thought. What mattered was what David Zaslav thought,” the piece continues.
CNN CEO Chris Licht believes that the media “put a jersey on and got into the game” during the Trump years. Tim Alberta explores how his efforts to restore the network’s reputation went so wrong. https://t.co/PwgFWc9LPq
— The Atlantic (@TheAtlantic) June 3, 2023
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