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Licht Literature 101

Chris Licht
Chris Licht, Chairman and C.E.O. of CNN. Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images
Dylan Byers
December 21, 2022

Earlier this week, I received a call from a notable CNN alumnus whom I hadn’t spoken with in over a year, since Before Times—before the Warner Bros. Discovery merger, before the infamous John Malone musings, before the ZuckerGollustKilarCuomo imbroglio, before the anointment of Chris Licht and the internal resistance to his leadership, and before the recent spate of layoffs. This source was intimately familiar with the head-spinning changes that the network had endured in that span of time. 

It was, we agreed, one of the biggest media stories of our time, especially given the global power of the CNN brand, its unique ability to cover breaking events from around the world, and its vulnerability to inexorable market forces and sometimes feckless corporate overlords. CNN, after all, is at the nexus of all various forces reshaping the industry. It’s a legacy asset beset by secular changes in platforms and viewing habits, a lack of trust in news, the streaming wars, the rise of S.V.O.D, the decline of linear, and the endless necessity of talent-stroking. In what other business do serious journalists don make-up to read cue cards all while exchanging sensitive information with the most important people on earth as they take orders from centamillionaires and whine to their agents? So, yes, it’s an important, interesting place.