June 13, 2024

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Chris Licht, who has been named CNN's new president, is expected to regain sensitivity to difficult news

Chris Licht, who has been named CNN’s new president, is expected to regain sensitivity to difficult news

“There is a difference between standing up for yourself, and becoming part of the resistance,” Licht told a friend recently.

Licht, 50, was announced Monday as CNN Global’s new chairman and CEO, a position he is expected to take in early May, after a deal for television conglomerate Discovery Inc to take control of WarnerMedia, CNN’s parent company, was completed.

Prior to joining CBS, Licht featured at MSNBC, where he was the co-creator and original executive producer of “Morning Joe,” the network’s flagship morning show. He also helped launch the CBS morning show, now called “CBS Mornings,” and most recently is credited with changing the ratings performance for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” which he currently oversees.

Licht has been friendly for 15 years with its new boss, David Zaslav, who will serve as Warner Bros. CEO. Compact Discovery; The two overlapped briefly at NBCUniversal before Zaslav became CEO of Discovery in 2007. Friends say Licht often turned to Zaslav for career advice — and Zaslav, in turn, sought Licht’s advice as he looked forward to the challenges of overseeing a major news network after A career in the entertainment sector.

In a statement, Zaslav described Licht as a “real news person” who he said “makes every organization stronger, more innovative and cohesive”.

In his own statement, Licht praised CNN’s journalistic reputation and said he was “honored to have this opportunity, especially at such an important time for our country and the world.”

Licht’s appointment was widely praised by CNN reporters when plans for the selection were leaked on Saturday and First mentioned by Puck.

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“He’s the right guy for the job, it’s undeniable,” said Jay Souris, co-chair of the talent agency UTA, which represents many of CNN’s top reporters and reporters. “People will want to follow his directions because he has real news segments.”

Jonathan Klein, who served as president of CNN USA before Zucker, praised Licht as an innovator who created “Morning Joe” with “smart stuff that proved to be popular with audiences,” rather than the light-focused culinary and celebrity segments that were a hallmark of morning television. Licht cheered co-host Mika Brzezinski in 2007 when she fed a news script largely into a shredder instead of reading the latest developments about Paris Hilton’s legal woes to an audience—helping set the tone for the show early in its run.

“It didn’t undermine,” Klein said. “Every program has lifted his touch.”

Klein noted that some of the shows he created at CNN 15 years ago “are still pretty much the same as ever” and that “it’s time for some new approaches that Chris will bring.”

Before Lecht’s appointment, CNN staff and watchers looked to Zaslav’s appointment of a new president for hints at what editorial direction he wanted the network to take — particularly after Discovery contributor John Malone said in an interview in November that he “would like to He sees CNN evolve back into the journalism it started with.”

Over the past decade, CNN’s neutral tone has given way to something more complex and emotional, as Zucker has given top on-air talent a chance to voice their opinions — a development that has rattled some news traditions, said Mark Whitaker, a former CNN correspondent. Director and managing editor of Newsweek magazine.

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Whitaker noted that Licht showed a knack for rebranding on CBS’ morning show, indicating a renewed dedication to serious news.

“It ended up creating an interesting show, but it was very much in the spirit of what CBS stands for,” he said. “If he came to CNN and that was his approach, that would be the right approach.”

In a note to CNN employees Monday morning, Zaslav described himself as a “news junkie at heart” and praised the network’s coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying they fulfilled the original mission of its founder, Ted Turner, by building “the world’s foremost news-gathering organization.”

In his note to CNN staff, Licht said he knows many are wondering how CNN will change. “The honest answer is I don’t know yet,” he wrote. He said Zaslav wants him to “ensure that CNN remains at the top of the world in the news” and that they will “multiply what works well and quickly eliminate what doesn’t.”

Since Zucker’s sudden departure, CNN has been run by three longtime CEOs, Michael Bass, Amy Intelis, and Ken Gautz. Each executive was considered a potential candidate for the role of president, although Zaslav eventually decided to go with an outside selection.

CNN, which was briefly the most watched network on news channels in January 2021, during a turbulent presidential transition, slipped to third place when looking at total viewership. It still beats MSNBC in total viewership today among the 25-54 age group that advertisers estimate.

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But colleagues say when Licht expressed concern about taking on a job that would push him into a fierce ratings battle, Zaslav reassured him he was more interested in boosting CNN’s reputation — something that could be key as CNN launches a streaming service that relies more on viewership subscriptions. of advertising revenue.

CNN Plus, as the streaming service was called, is expected to launch by the end of March with shows built around several high-profile new hires, including former Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, former co-host of All Things considered” in NPR. Cornish and former MSNBC anchor Cassie Hunt.

One of the first big challenges for a yacht will be filling the 9 p.m. slot vacated by former star Chris Cuomo, who was fired by the network in December for crossing moral lines to help his brother, then-New York Governor Andrew M. and combat allegations of sexual misconduct.

While Cuomo often had a sentimental and hard-nosed edge, Licht told People he appreciated the show was brimming with emotion and unpredictability — and didn’t seem to cling to a particular political perspective.

“This is a huge decision and it will say a lot,” said Josh Gruber, a TV agent who previously worked in programming and content strategy at CNN.