On Wednesday morning, CNN chairman and C.E.O. Mark Thompson finally unveiled his long-awaited manifesto for the company’s future: a lengthy, well-considered, statement-of-purpose-style memo that sought to break an army of television veterans free from their linear stockade and will them into the digital present. In the memo, aptly titled “CNN’s Future,” Thompson diagnosed the all-too-familiar challenges—“The traditional TV universe is shrinking steadily,” the youths consume news on YouTube and TikTok, CNN feels “old-fashioned and unadventurous,” etcetera, etcetera—before articulating new goals and priorities, if not quite a specific roadmap for success. It was, in many ways, a sequel to the 2014 New York Times Digital Innovation Report that A.G. Sulzberger commissioned, and that had served as the catalyst for the paper’s digital transformation under Thompson a decade ago.
On the editorial side, CNN will combine its domestic, international, and digital divisions under Virginia Moseley, a Zucker-era veteran of the Washington bureau who deftly navigated Licht-era uncertainty as a member of the quadrumvirate interim leadership and has now emerged as one of the most powerful figures of the Thompson epoch. Meanwhile, as I first reported two weeks ago, CNN’s former product chief Alex MacCallum will return to the company as executive vice president of digital products and services, overseeing a new division that will pursue new products and growth opportunities, including potential subscription offerings. Of course, MacCallum held a similar position at the Times under Thompson, and her return means that Thompson is not merely betting on a familiar playbook, but also a familiar member of his former team.