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Struggling CNN Makes Strategy Change in Order to Stop 'Alarming' Viewers

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CNN will limit the use of its “breaking news” banner in line with planned updates to its editorial guidelines, the network’s new top executive announced Thursday, likely the most visible of CNN’s planned changes to its overall approach to news coverage.

Individuals within and outside the organization have complained that the news network uses the banner excessively, CEO Chris Licht wrote in a Thursday memo to staff.

“It has become such a fixture on every channel and network that its impact has become lost on the audience,” the memo stated.

The memo was first reported by Axios. The full text of the memo was published by Deadline.

In response to complaints about overuse of the banner, CNN’s stylebook will now lay out guidelines on when and when not to mark a story as “breaking news.” CNN Bureau chief Sam Feist will lead the team tasked with formulating the policies, Licht’s note stated.

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“It certainly will need tweaks, so we are open to feedback, but this is a great starting point to try to make ‘Breaking News’ mean something BIG is happening,” Licht wrote, according to Deadline.

“We are truth-tellers, focused on informing, not alarming our viewers,” Licht wrote.

“As I have said, we must be vital, relevant, and respected – and how we show up for our audiences, in every story, in every part of the country, and around the world, matters,” Licht said in the note.

The “breaking news” guidelines are part of broader seismic changes in the scandal-wracked news outlet following Licht’s arrival.

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The 50-year-old executive replaced former CNN Worldwide head Jeffrey Zucker, who had abruptly resigned in February, citing his undisclosed romantic relationship with close colleague Allison Gollust.

During Zucker’s management of the company for about a decade, the outlet shifted from generally impartial, non-partisan journalism to opinionated, highly emotional left-leaning activism.

“One of the things that I’ve tried to encourage is authenticity and being real,” Zucker said of his approach, which allowed journalists and anchors to disseminate opinions on the air, The Washington Post reported in March of 2021. “If we pretend not to be human, it’s not real.”

However, that approach might change under the outlet’s new administration following Discovery’s takeover of CNN’s parent company, WarnerMedia.

In February, Axios reported that with the new management led by Licht, the network wanted to return to traditional news reporting and eschew the heated liberal opinionating that characterized CNN under Zucker.

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On May 2, his first official day on the job, Licht issued a memo to CNN staffers pointing out that “too many people have lost trust in the news media,” the New York Post reported.

“I think we can be a beacon in regaining that trust by being an organization that exemplifies the best characteristics of journalism: fearlessly speaking truth to power, challenging the status quo, questioning ‘group-think, and educating viewers and readers with straightforward facts and insightful commentary, while always being respectful of differing viewpoints.

“First and foremost, we should, and we will be advocates for the truth.”

The changes are coming as CNN goes through a turbulent period. In addition to the scandals that brought about the departure of Zuckerberg and former star Chris Cuomo, the network was embarrassed by the high-profile flop of its CNN+ streaming service and has been struggling under consistent ratings dominance by Fox News.

Also the Thursday memo, Licht also announced that the news outlet would have a new beat, “Guns in America,” in light of the May 24 mass murder at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Licht wrote that to promote understanding of “all sides of this complex and divisive issue,” the beat will deal with the “role of guns – who buys & sells them, who makes them, and who regulates them,” according to Deadline.

“CNN is uniquely positioned to foster informed policy discussions in this space and help illuminate possible solutions to America’s epidemic of gun violence,” he added.

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Andrew Jose is a freelance reporter covering security, U.S. politics, and foreign policy, among other beats. He has bylines in several outlets, notably the Daily Caller, Jewish News Syndicate, and the Times of Israel.
Andrew Jose is a freelance reporter covering security, U.S. politics, and foreign policy, among other beats. He has bylines in several outlets, notably the Daily Caller, Jewish News Syndicate, and the Times of Israel. Speak to Andrew securely via Follow Andrew on Twitter: @realAndrewJose
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