In recent weeks, as incoming CNN chief Mark Thompson has gone about introducing himself to the organization’s top executives, producers and on-air talent in one-on-one meetings and phone calls, he has expressed a few near-term priorities for the beleaguered news network.
In some exchanges, sources familiar with the conversations said, Thompson has encouraged his new charges to abandon the anxieties about editorial bias that weighed on them in the early, Malone-ordained view-from-both-sides era. He has said, for instance, that the Hunter Biden indictment should not be covered out of some obligation to balance the partisan scales, but simply because it’s a good, newsworthy story. In others, he has expressed a desire to better distinguish the staid primetime hours by taking a “bolder” approach to covering stories. More broadly, he has described himself as “a firewall” between the journalists and the demands of the parentco and its shareholders. At surface level, it calls back to Zucker.
Far more notable, however, is Thompson’s stated commitment to a potentially revolutionary, long-term transformation of CNN’s business model, which he says will take at least five years to achieve. In those five-plus years, Thompson will attempt to transform CNN from a linear news channel with a nascent streaming service (launching next week on Max) and a messy-if-heavily-trafficked digital site, into a sleek, digital-and-streaming-first news brand that also happens to produce a linear feed—just as he transformed The New York Times from a newspaper with a website into the multiplatform news-and-lifestyle brand that it is today, with an ever-slimmer print paper for the aficionados and luddites and nostalgic Boomers, alike.