CNN’s ubiquitous “Breaking News” banner is gone, now reserved for instances of truly urgent events. Snarky on-screen captions — “Angry Trump Turns Briefing Into Propaganda Session,” for instance — are discouraged. 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.
A month into his tenure as the new leader of CNN, Chris Licht is starting to leave his mark on the 24-hour news network he inherited in May from its prominent former president, Jeff Zucker. So far, the Licht Doctrine is a change from the Zucker days: less hype, more nuance and a redoubled effort to reach viewers of all stripes.
Running a network is a new challenge for Mr. Licht, a 50-year-old lifelong producer who has never led an organization as big as CNN. (His last employer, “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” had a staff of about 200 people; CNN has roughly 4,000.) Some CNN journalists say they wonder if he can navigate a sprawling, unwieldy global news network past what has been a no good, very bad year.
In December, the anchor Chris Cuomo was fired for ethical lapses, prompting an investigation that ultimately led to Mr. Zucker’s ouster in February over an undisclosed relationship with a co-worker. Then, in April, the network’s new owners, Warner Bros. Discovery, shut down the streaming platform CNN+ weeks after its $300 million debut. On the same day, Mr. Licht announced the prospect of hundreds of layoffs in his first formal address to staff.
Under Mr. Zucker, a micromanager who dictated headlines and whispered in anchors’ ears during interviews, the network developed an “Audience of One” culture. “What Jeff Wants” was the mantra, and that often meant spectacle and drama. Mr. Licht is now tearing up that playbook with a management style notably different from his predecessor.
“I’m not here to get into the weeds of day-to-day editorial decision making,” Mr….
Michael M. Grynbaum and John Koblin
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