Top CNN exec jumps ship as network staff braces for pink slips in their Christmas stockings

CNN’s executive director of programming isn’t waiting around until the ax comes down at the troubled cable news network as employees brace for deep cuts in staffing at the worst time of the year, abandoning a sinking ship by tendering his resignation.

On Monday, the network’s CEO Chris Licht announced that longtime programming boss Michael Bass would be departing CNN at the end of the year after spending nearly a decade in his current position at a time when the coverage took a severe turn into raw partisanship and sensationalism to wage war against former President Donald J. Trump.

According to a report by the showbiz website Variety, Bass’s “departure was revealed to staffers at the Warner Bros. Discovery-backed outlet’s daily news meeting Monday,” citing anonymous sources “familiar with the discussions.”

“Throughout his nearly decade-long run at this organization, Michael has demonstrated incredible leadership and perseverance,” Licht said in a memo to employees announcing the news. “He has been a steady hand during some of the most turbulent times this network has faced.”

“Along with a brilliant and courageous team, Michael kept CNN live and on air as COVID-19 shut the world down,” he added.

“We are launching a search for Michael’s replacement, and we will communicate an interim plan in the coming days,” Licht said, according to Variety.

Last month, Licht – who took over for disgraced former president Jeff Zucker earlier this year –put CNN employees on notice that “unsettling” changes were necessary to adjust to the changing environment and anticipation of tough economic times.

”I have spent the last six months meeting so many of you and diving deep into every corner of the company to understand how you do the incredible work CNN produces every day, how we’re structured, and defining our top priorities. As many of you know, I have also spent much of that time doing formal business reviews with senior staff to identify areas where we should make changes, investments, and reductions to match our future priorities,” Licht wrote in his October memo to network employees.

“We have also begun to reduce or eliminate areas that aren’t core to our mission. All these moves are designed to keep CNN essential across platforms to ensure that wherever and however people get their news, they must have CNN,” he added.

“There is a lot more to be done. I am writing to you today to say that over the next several weeks, that work will accelerate. There is widespread concern over the global economic outlook, and we must factor that risk into our long-term planning. All this together will mean noticeable change to this organization. That, by definition, is unsettling. These changes will not be easy because they will affect people, budgets, and projects,” Licht wrote in words that sent a chill creeping up the spines of potential victims of the downsizing, many of whom will soon be without paychecks in a recession with the worst inflation in four decades.

According to his profile on CNN’s website, “Michael Bass is CNN’s Executive Vice President of programming. In this role, he oversees all New York- and Atlanta-based live programs, including mornings, dayside, prime time, and weekends. In addition, he manages network-wide booking, sponsored content and special projects, ‘CNN Heroes’ and in-house original documentaries. Bass is based in New York.”

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