Chris Licht's vision for CNN starts with cutting dead weight

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty The latest episode of CNN Reliable sources aired Sunday, ending a 30-year run as a fixture on the network. ...


Chris Licht at CNN

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

The latest episode of CNN Reliable sources aired Sunday, ending a 30-year run as a fixture on the network. The show was canceled last weekwith his host Brian Steelerwho for many has become the face of the cable news network over the past year of the jeff zucker time.

But outside of our cabal of media-obsessed nerds (like me!), Stelter’s departure has made some waves in the pond of public attention, suggesting the decision of CNN’s new boss. Chris Licht canceling the show – and firing its host – was a savvy move.

It’s also the clearest sign yet of what Licht’s CNN aims to look like.

Licht took charge of the network in the middle of spring, first embarking on a kind of listening tour of the network’s senior executives and talents. When he announced his management team, almost entirely made up of former Zucker lawmakers, there were insider rumors that his management of the cable news giant would be more conservative than visionary.

(This review overlooks the fact that several top executives have left in recent months, including CNN’s digital chief Andrew Morse, as well as digital editor Meredith Artley.)

But CNN is far from a broken institution, and a complete overhaul of the network would be a waste of time. Yes, income is downbut not dramatically, and it’s consistent with a pattern to be expected a year or two after a general election (not to mention the costly self-immolation of CNN+).

Still, Licht made significant changes. Most important to date: the eviction of Stelter and Jeffrey Toobinchief legal analyst of the network.

According to the cable news rumor mill more high-profile names will be dropped in the coming weeks, it’s likely Licht didn’t stifle an internal call with network staff last week.

“It’s a time of change, and I know it’s troubling,” he said. said. “There will be more changes and you may not understand it or like it all.”

A better interpretation of Licht’s first four months is not that he was a caretaker, but that he is more focused on what CNN is all about. not rather than trying to sketch out a vision of what will be in the future. The network is not on any political team, Licht sought to hammer home when he asked staffers to avoid using ‘Big Lie’ to refer to the former president that of Donald Trump false election statements stolen.

The dismissal of Stelter and Toobin could be seen, especially by critics, as addition by subtraction.

It makes sense that when planning a new route, the first phase is to get rid of those who are slowing down your journey (perhaps because they have a different destination). It is similar to pruning the branches of a growing tree, resulting in a healthier trunk with a stronger foundation.

Under the supervision of Stelter, Reliable sources became an academic discussion of capital J journalism that erred on the side of serious theoretical discussion rather than entertaining insight. The show could be pompous, and the relentless bashing of conservatives by its host and guests made Stelter a prime target on the right – a fact that certainly didn’t work in his favor under the new Warner Bros. regime. Discovery, which boasts John Malone as one of its main investors.

The last episode was that of Stelter Reliable sources in a word.

We are very important for the future of democracy. Brian Karem joins me now to discuss this. Brian, how important are we to the future of democracy?

We are VERY important, Brian.

The kind of selfish insight served by Reliable sources has diverted most people from the elitist discourse of media insiders that holds only one thing absolutely true: we know better.

It may appeal to a certain group of viewers in the Acela hall, it’s remarkably off-putting to the majority of viewers, at least judging by my small sample of Kansas buddies I grew up with.

It’s not hard to see how Licht could watch Stelter on air and see him in reality undermine trust in the media, instead of serving as a bulwark against attacks on the Fourth Estate. The featured show was a weekly tradition of media cannibalism in which Fox News – a rival of CNN – was often the center of coverage.

Fox News deserves criticism, as do all outlets. But when that criticism becomes an obsession, it can backfire. First of all, if you constantly tell viewers how crazy something is on a competitive network, eventually viewers will tune in to see for themselves.

But the bigger issue is that the us versus them presentation between CNN and Fox News has allowed Fox to present CNN as the left-wing version of Fox.

It’s bad for CNN. The network’s position should be that they are the opposite of Fox News, but not on an ideological but journalistic spectrum. This means that while Fox News is political entertainment designed to outrage (and profit!), CNN is committed to the truth.

And this is where Licht’s vision for the network begins to emerge. The most precise expression of what he intends to do with CNN was written by the media’s senior reporter Olivier Darcy in the latest Reliable Sources newsletter co-authored with Stelter. Darci wrote:

But the important work of holding media figures and powerful institutions accountable will continue at CNN. It must continue. In the immediate future, this newsletter will take a brief summer hiatus. But in a few weeks, I’ll be back with a redesigned product that expands our coverage and reflects the complex media landscape facing our nation and the world today.

The newsletter will address trust and everyone who influences it, from news anchors to podcast hosts to popular internet personalities. It will look at broadcast and cable news, digital newspapers and news sites, social media companies, streaming services, and all the platforms that make up our modern information economy. And, perhaps most importantly, he will be unwavering in his cover. You have my word on that.

Licht’s decision to show Stelter the door doesn’t just reveal that he doesn’t want the network under his watch. More importantly, it shows how he wants the network to look to the future. And it took balls to drop such a high-profile anchor, which is a rare leap of faith for a cable news executive in today’s climate.

This is an opinion piece. The opinions expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Chris Licht's vision for CNN starts with cutting dead weight
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