Christiane Amanpour opened a new front on CEO Chris Licht last week when she criticized the network’s Trump town hall. She prompted an outpouring of support from staff at CNN, several of whom posted tweets praising the longtime anchor and her criticism of the network. Two CNNers said there’d been tears in the press shop after weeks of stress and bad headlines.
You can get away with either bad ratings or a rolling morale crisis at a television network (see: ABC), but the combination is often fatal.
But the unanswered question is where Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, Licht’s boss, stands in all of this. If he’s playing a decisive role in key questions, like casting talent and giving Trump a town hall, it’ll be hard for him to blame Licht for the results.
Regardless of his boss’ feelings or those of his peers within WBD, Licht is trying to do some damage cleanup himself. Over the past several days, he has called media reporters to privately push back against what he sees as unfair coverage of the network. CNN is also working toward finalizing its primetime lineup and its replacement for host Kaitlan Collins in the morning, which one senior official said should be announced within the next two months.
At the top of Friday’s 9 am staff call, Licht told CNN editorial employees he wanted them to feel free to express concerns. “That’s part of the ethos of this company,” he said “Healthy, respectful debate.”