The new attitude at CNN comes down to a simple truth for big names whose stock-in-trade became Trump-bashing: Walk the line, or walk the plank.
A report in Axios said that as he tries to revive the brand of journalism for which CNN was once famous, CNN CEO Chris Licht is evaluating whether on-air figures who are polarizing in their politics can adapt.
Those who fail the test could pay the price by losing their current roles, Axios said, citing “three sources familiar with the matter.”
Some changes are already appearing.
Licht last week told employees that the network’s “Breaking News” banner had become over-used, and there are new rules in place.
“We are truth-tellers, focused on informing, not alarming, our viewers,” he said in a memo obtained by Axios.
The Times said its look at CNN was informed by “several people with knowledge of the internal dynamics at CNN who would speak only on the condition [of] anonymity.”
It wrote that “Licht Doctrine is a change from the Zucker days: less hype, more nuance and a redoubled effort to reach viewers of all stripes.”
“Political shows are trying to book more conservative voices, and producers have been urged to ignore Twitter backlash from the far right and the far left,” the Times wrote.
In its summary of the changes, Axios put it this way: “For on-air talent, that includes engaging in respectful interviews that don’t feel like PR stunts. For producers and bookers, that includes making programming decisions that are focused on nuance, not noise.”
One commentator said a change was needed to tone down the outrage and separate fact from advocacy.
“It was so loud,” said Peter Hamby, a former CNN correspondent and a columnist at Puck, according to the Times. “They found a new outrage every single day. It made it difficult for audiences to separate what was really an emergency and what was a ratings ploy.”
The Axios report said Licht will not shy away from programming built around personalities but does not want the network harmed by relying too much upon them.
Licht told employees that change will take time.
“I am going to make decisions slower than some would like,” he wrote in a memo on Thursday, the Times reported.
“I know this organization has been through tremendous change over the last four months, which is why I am approaching this process slowly and thoughtfully as we look at all parts of the operation.”
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