“What do you think is better about CNN since you arrived?” Chris Licht, who is now nine months into his tenure as CNN’s chairman and C.E.O., was asked in an interview this week with The Los Angeles Times. “Too early to say,” Licht replied, “because we haven’t really executed a lot of what we’re going to do. But I hope that CNN is better in that I’m allowing people to do their jobs and leaning into the talent that we have here.”
For many CNN on-air talent, producers and rank-and-file staff, more than a dozen of whom I spoke to after the piece ran in the L.A. Times, Licht’s remarks were frustrating and discouraging. To some, in fact, they manifested yet another sign that their embattled leader still does not have a strategy for the storied news network beyond cutting costs, per his mandate from Warner Bros. Discovery, and making the programming less politically polarizing.
In the meantime, CNN is suffering its worst ratings in a decade, profits are down more than 25 percent from the Trump–Zucker heyday, and the network has dramatically scaled back its ambitions, leaving primetime effectively vacant, neutering CNN Films and doing away with its streaming efforts entirely. Indeed, Licht’s way may be the only way, but you can’t blame the personnel inside the business for wondering what lies at the other end of the rainbow—and wondering whether, given the scant details provided, there is a plan at all besides more cutting, more streamlining, and a crossed-fingers hope that something works out.