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The Thompson Manifesto: A Sequel

mark thompson
It’s clear that the CNN veterans who once welcomed Thompson as a post-Licht savior have grown restless again—and not just restless, but anxious and angry. Photo: Brad Barket/Getty Images
Dylan Byers
March 1, 2024

This afternoon, CNN chairman and C.E.O. Mark Thompson sent his employees a progress report regarding his evolving vision for the network-cum-news-organization’s new, post-linear, multiplatform business strategy. This latest installment came some seven weeks after his initial, long-awaited manifesto, which disappointingly diagnosed some rather obvious maladies about the state of the business—to wit: that people consume news on their phones not their televisions, etcetera. This time around, Thompson “established five projects to design and implement change at CNN,” from building a new digital infrastructure and globally integrated workflow to “future-proofing TV production” and “developing new sources of revenue.” Once again, Thompson was diagnosing the right problems and asking the right questions, but his solutions were hidden within the corporate pablum. 

The response inside and outside CNN, for the most part, was a collective shrug. “From my perspective, nothing changes until culture and communication are addressed first,” one producer observed. “What a classic, jargon-filled, Dilbert-esque word salad of nothingness,” said a network veteran. And, to be fair, the memo did read like it came from the C.E.O. of Honeywell or Texaco, or, as one industry veteran quipped, an A.I. generator given the prompt for “inspirational way to foreshadow coming layoffs.” Of course, that may explain why the memo is so pablum-y: Thompson knows just how hard the real, impending truth is going to hurt.