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English Patience

Mark Thompson
The challenge for Mark Thompson, in particular, will be selecting stars that are most valuable in this new era and commercializing them across a number of lines of business. Photo: Rolf Vennenbernd via Getty Images
Dylan Byers
May 17, 2024

At the Warner Bros. Discovery upfront on Wednesday, shortly before he triumphantly announced that his network had landed the first presidential debate of the cycle, CNN C.E.O. Mark Thompson offered the most specific articulation yet of his plan to reboot his news business. Of course, CNN employees had been waiting on pins and needles for six months to hear their newish boss detail a strategy, any strategy, beyond his vague paeans to digital transformation in town halls and interviews and conference panels. Thompson arrived at CNN with a reputation for having stewarded The New York Times through its own heralded reinvention a decade earlier—a case study for so many news companies to this day—and his street cred had built outsize expectations for his latest revitalization gig. For anxious CNN staff, each cryptic Thompson pronouncement has been scrutinized as if he were Nostradamus.

On Wednesday, for the first time, Thompson publicly conveyed a plan centered on verticals—an editorial structure dating back at least as far as 1851, when the Times launched its business section. “We don’t believe news is just politics,” Thompson explained to the audience. “Business and tech are news. Climate and weather are news. Health, wellness, and living longer are news. So expect to see us build new branded verticals in all these areas on TV, on our apps, and across our other platforms.”