Welcome back to In The Room, my biweekly private email on the inner workings of the American media industry. Today, we go back inside CNN, where Chris Licht has left staff in an uproar after announcing impending layoffs that he once said wouldn’t happen.
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CNN staffers are in a panic over forthcoming layoffs, pining for Zucker, and waiting for the next shoe to drop. The party line is “right-sizing,” but Licht and Zaslav’s new approach—a smaller digital footprint, fewer original series and films, cross-functional consolidation—appears to reflect a growing delta between the CNN they inherited and what they want it to be.
Chris Licht, the chairman and C.E.O. of CNN, is fond of saying that he doesn’t pay attention to the media’s coverage of his tumultuous early tenure, nor what his critics say on Twitter. In conversations with associates and other executives, who spoke to me on the condition of anonymity, Licht says that his boss David Zaslav has given him a clear mandate and total support to reposition CNN as a centrist, nonpartisan network, regardless of how that’s perceived or what it means for ratings.
And that seems unequivocally true. Indeed, Licht’s stated view on the press coverage, plenty of which has been negative, mirrors Zaz’s own ostensible attitude toward critics of Warner Bros. Discovery. A rarified media executive, Zaz believes he’s...