Thursday, June 8, 2023

CNN chief Chris Licht steps down as lousy magazine interview backfires

CNN staffers were incensed by Mr Licht’s criticism of the network’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic in a The Atlantic profile.

• June 7, 2023
Chris Licht
Chris Licht

Chairman and CEO of CNN Worldwide, Chris Licht, has resigned from his position.

Mr Licht stepped down from his role on Wednesday after barely a year on the job.

His resignation came after a scathing magazine profile alienated staffers and key senior figures at the network who called for his head.

David Zaslav of Warner Bros. Discovery, CNN’s corporate parent, announced Mr Licht’s resignation during an editorial meeting with staff members.

“I wanted you to hear this news directly from me as it impacts you and your teams,” Mr Zaslav said. “I met with Chris and he will be leaving CNN. We are in the process of conducting a wide search, internally and externally for a new leader.”

He, however, praised Mr Licht for an “amazing career,” adding that “Unfortunately, things did not work out the way we had hoped – and ultimately that’s on me.”

Mr Licht’s resignation comes a little more than a year after he took over from Jeff Zucker, the beloved former network boss who was forced to quit after the revelation of a relationship with a subordinate.

He had accused his predecessor of undermining his leadership by planting negative stories about the news operation.

Warner Bros. Discovery, however, announced that Mr Licht would be replaced in the interim by a group “comprising seasoned programme leaders.”

They include Amy Entelis, executive vice-president of talent and content development; Virginia Moseley, executive vice-president of editorial, and Eric Sherling, who heads U.S.-based programming.

According to the company, David Leavy, a longtime trusted aide to Mr Zaslav, who was recently installed as chief operating officer, would head the commercial side.

Mr Licht spent the past 48 hours desperately trying to win the support of staffers who were upset by The Atlantic profile which depicted him as thin-skinned, aloof, and paranoid about negative media coverage.

CNN staffers were incensed by his (Licht) criticism of the network’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday, Mr Licht apologised to staffers during an editorial call and the next day, he was hitting the phones of network anchors he’s never spoken to before.

“I should not be in the news. I know these past few days have been hard for this group,” he said. “I fully recognise that this news cycle and my role in it overshadowed the incredible week of reporting that we just had, and distracted from the work of every single journalist in this organisation.”

Staffers had anticipated that Mr Zaslav would eventually show Mr Licht, the former executive producer for Stephen Colbert, the door.

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