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Could Donald Duck run CNN better than the last two idiots?

First of all, I've always liked Donald Duck. Second he identifies as news executive.

CNN CEO Chris Licht Is Out After Chaotic Year Atop News Network

Licht had been under fire for some of CNN’s programming decisions


By Isabella Simonetti, and Joe Flint, CNN

Updated June 7, 2023 5:53 pm ET


CNN parted ways with CEO Chris Licht following his tumultuous tenure as head of the news network. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Semafor

Chris Licht stepped down as chief executive of CNN, the network’s parent company said, ending a tenure of a little over a year that was marked by a series of missteps.


During a Wednesday morning editorial call, David Zaslav, CEO of CNN parent Warner Bros. Discovery WBD 8.43%increase; green up pointing triangle, took responsibility for Licht’s rocky stint, according to people who were on the call.


Licht’s departure comes just days after a blistering profile in the Atlantic led to something of an insurrection inside the news network as both on-air talent and producers voiced their growing frustrations and anger over his leadership.


The decision to part ways with Licht was made Tuesday evening, after concluding he could no longer be an effective leader of the network, a person familiar with the matter said.


“I have great respect for Chris, personally and professionally,” Zaslav said in the release announcing the move. “The job of leading CNN was never going to be easy, especially at a time of huge disruption and transformation, and he has poured his heart and soul into it.”


A permanent successor hasn’t been named, Warner Bros. Discovery said. Veteran CNN executives Amy Entelis, Virginia Moseley and Eric Sherling will oversee editorial operations for the network in the interim, the company said. Entelis had already been tapped to temporarily help run the network the last time the leader of CNN abruptly resigned—when Jeff Zucker left in February of last year.


Zaslav said in an email to staff that the search for Licht’s successor would take place both internally and externally.


David Leavy, the longtime Discovery executive and Zaslav adviser who last week was named chief operating officer for CNN, will have oversight of business and commercial dealings.


The 51-year-old Licht, who was installed as CEO when Warner Bros. Discovery took control of the network, also had been under fire for some of CNN’s programming decisions, including a recent town hall with former president and current Republican front-runner Donald Trump, whose format was widely criticized.


A former producer of morning shows at CBS and MSNBC, Licht joined CNN after a stint producing “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” at CBS. At the time, the hire surprised many inside CNN and the industry. While Licht was viewed as having strong producing chops, he had never run anything close to the size and scale of CNN’s global news operation.


Licht and Zaslav have had a close personal relationship. When Zaslav hired Licht about a year ago, he described him as “a dynamic and creative producer” who has been in the field, in the control room and on the set of TV news shows. Though he previously voiced support for Licht, Zaslav had recently grown impatient with Licht’s missteps, The Wall Street Journal previously reported.


Since Licht took over in May of last year, CNN’s ratings have hit historic lows. Licht has been experimenting with new programming to counter the ratings slide, including a new morning show that has struggled to gain traction, and attracted controversy earlier this year when co-host Don Lemon said on the show that Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley wasn’t in her prime. Lemon has since left the network.


Besides questionable programming decisions that didn’t work, Licht was also viewed as aloof and arrogant by many inside the network.


In the long Atlantic article, for which Licht gave extensive access, he said disparaging things on the record about CNN’s approach to covering Trump before Licht arrived, and said the network had alienated viewers with its coverage of Covid-19, among other criticisms. He also made disparaging remarks about the leadership of Zucker, his predecessor who was widely respected inside the organization.


Zucker resigned last year—before Warner Bros. Discover took control of CNN—for failing to disclose an intimate relationship with a colleague. His departure came as a blow to staff, and he still enjoyed strong support inside the network, which CNN employees said complicated Licht’s efforts to win over the troops.


Many at CNN also took issue with Licht’s management style, including a decision to have an office several floors away from the heart of CNN’s news operation. That sent a signal that he was going to be more of a corporate executive than a newsroom chief, CNN employees said.


Some on-air talent grumbled at how little they interacted with Licht, who some viewed as more interested in pleasing Zaslav rather than gaining the support of the newsroom.


On Monday—during an editorial meeting shortly after the publication of the Atlantic article—Licht apologized to staff, saying news about his management of the network was overshadowing its journalistic achievements.


“I fully recognize that this news cycle and my role in it have overshadowed the incredible week of reporting we just had and distracted from the work of every single journalist in this organization,” he said, according to audio of the call. “And for that, I’m sorry.”


In recent days, some of CNN’s highest-profile hosts expressed concerns to management about Licht’s ability to keep leading the network.


Licht’s tenure at CNN was rough from the beginning. In April of last year—days before he officially assumed his role—he had to address CNN employees who had just learned that new parent Warner Bros. Discovery had decided to shut down the CNN+ streaming service mere weeks after it launched.


When Licht took over, CNN had recently lost its highest-rated host: Chris Cuomo, who was fired by CNN in December 2021 after an investigation into his efforts to help his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, respond to accusations of sexual misconduct.


The 9 p.m. slot that Cuomo hosted remained without a designated host for the entirety of Licht’s tenure, as he experimented with different formats. He recently settled on giving the slot to Kaitlan Collins, a former White House correspondent and morning show co-host who moderated the recent Trump town hall. Collins is due to start her show this month.


While CNN continues to get strong ratings on breaking-news stories, it has struggled to adjust in an era where cable-news networks alternate between news programs during daytime hours and opinion shows in prime time, a formula that has proved successful for rivals MSNBC and Fox News, which have significantly higher ratings than CNN.


While at the helm, Licht tried to reset the network’s editorial approach, after research showed viewers were turned off by inflammatory political coverage, the Journal previously reported.


Some of Licht’s key lieutenants are also expected to depart following his resignation, according to a person familiar with the matter.


CNN faces a rapidly changing media landscape that is threatening the future of much of traditional television amid changing viewing habits.


Cord-cutting has resulted in the loss of millions of cable-TV subscribers, who have opted for streaming services that often cost less than the traditional pay-television bundle. Subscriber fees from cable and satellite operators are the lifeblood of cable networks.


In addition, a soft advertising market is hurting traditional media. Warner Bros. Discovery, which has cut thousands of jobs since over the past year, is expected to launch another round of significant layoffs in July, the Journal previously reported.


Write to Isabella Simonetti at isabella.simonetti@wsj.com and Joe Flint at Joe.Flint@wsj.com


Copyright ©2023 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8



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