“Our Toon President” executive producer Chris Licht speaks onstage during part of the 2018 Winter Television Critics Association CBS/Showtime press tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on January 6, 2018 in Pasadena, California.
Frederick M. Brown | Getty Images
New CNN head Chris Licht has a message for his staff: Not everything needs to be labeled as Breaking News.
In recent weeks, Licht, who officially became CNN CEO on May 2, has been holding staff meetings to get feedback on when and how the network is using its Breaking News banner, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because the discussions were private.
Licht concluded that there must be parameters that determine when to use the red chiron and asked Sam Feist, CNN’s Washington bureau chief and senior vice president, to lead a group that developed specific guidelines for its use.
“This is a great starting point to try and make Breaking News mean something BIG is happening,” Licht wrote in a memo obtained by CNBC. “We’re telling the truth, focused on informing, not alarming our viewers. You’ve already seen far fewer “Breaking News” banners in our programs. The tenor of our voice as a whole should reflect this.”
Licht’s decision – the first major program change he has made – is indicative of a broader strategy backed by Warner Bros. chief executive. Discovery by David Zaslav and board member John Malone, who publicly stated that CNN should focus on journalism over sensationalism.
“I would love to see CNN go back to the journalism it started with,” Malone told CNBC in November.
Zaslav said in April that CNN’s measured approach to news is important to a “civilized society” and critical to its avoid the image of an “advocacy” network.
Licht also told staff that he plans to create a new organizational structure for CNN but will be “making decisions more slowly than some would like” given the changes the company has already gone through in the past four months.
Former CNN executive Jeff Zucker abruptly resigned in February after revealing a relationship with CMO Allison Gollust. who also left the company. WarnerMedia then merged with Discovery in April, leading to the swift liquidation of streaming service CNN+ and its leader, Andrew Morse.
CNN Digital Editor Meredith Artley announced her retirement last month. She will be replaced by Marcus Mabry, who served interim as CNN Digital’s senior vice president of content strategy and global programming, Licht wrote in a memo.
“I know this organization has gone through huge changes,” Licht said. “I am approaching this process slowly and thoughtfully as we look at all parts of the operation. We will rebuild where it makes sense to best serve our people and business.”
Licht also announced a new “Guns in America” beat that CNN will be releasing in the near future.
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