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Licht Battles the Zucker Ghosts

Jeff Zucker
Photo: Bill O'Leary via Getty Images
Dylan Byers
May 6, 2022

The most notable moment of Chris Licht’s inaugural CNN town hall, which was delivered on Thursday morning, came early in the command performance. With thousands of staffers listening in, the newly christened chairman and C.E.O. of the Cable News Network was asked by moderator Erin Burnett how the producers, talent, and rank-and-file would be able to discern what their new boss really wanted. It was a question that she had heard a lot from employees, who had been prompted to submit questions. “Will there be avenues for us to understand your thinking?” she asked.

As I reported earlier this week, Licht intends to manage CNN as a sort of anti-Jeff Zucker: a delegator-in-chief who won’t have the control room perpetually on hold. He has placed himself in a corporate office on the 22nd floor, at a far remove from the newsroom, where Zucker kept his office door wide open. He will not lead the 9 a.m. meeting, where his predecessor set the daily agenda. And, in perhaps the most radical break from the past, Licht will not meddle in day-to-day programming decisions. If he has thoughts, he will send those directly to programming chief Michael Bass, who will then relay them to executive producers.