CNN’s new leader tries to move on from Chris Licht’s stormy tenure

CNN's new leader tries to move on from Chris Licht's stormy tenure

It started like any other day at CNN. Scores of staff members joined the network’s Thursday morning editorial calls from world capitals in New York, Los Angeles, London and far and wide.

But there was one difference: Chris Licht, who was fired as the network’s president on Wednesday, was not on the call.

It was led by Virginia Moseley, one of three network veterans who have been put in charge of the newsroom, according to several people familiar with its comments. And it was clear she was trying to turn the page: The calls focused on news coverage, including Canadian wildfires and the war in Ukraine. Ms. Mosley made no mention of Mr. Licht’s eviction.

In a memo to employees before the meeting, CNN’s new leaders acknowledged the crisis stemming from Mr. Licht’s final days at the network and made an optimistic note about the future. It was signed alphabetically by the first names of its authors: Amy Entellis, executive vice president for talent and content development; David Levy, CNN’s chief operating officer and a veteran communications consultant; Eric Sherling, Executive Vice President of US Programming; and Ms. Moseley, Executive Vice President of Editorial.

“We understand how distracting and upsetting it can be when this becomes news to us, and how these recent changes can be difficult to navigate both personally and professionally,” she added. Meet this moment, as you have done time and time again.

CNN declined to comment.

In interviews, some CNN reporters expressed frustration with the wall-to-wall coverage of the network and Mr. Licht, and they expressed hope that it would end soon. (Network viewers read the story; the only mention of Mr. Licht in the morning editorial call was related to the CNN article, which was one of the most popular on the network’s digital platforms on Wednesday, according to three people familiar with its readership.) .)

CNN’s new leaders will face many challenges, which Mr. Licht was in the midst of overcoming. The company’s traditional business, which relies mostly on TV advertising and cable fees, is facing long-term decay. Its digital operation is in the midst of an overhaul. It is preparing to cover the 2024 presidential election, an important event for the network and its business. And its morning and prime-time programming is still being fine-tuned, leaving important slots in CNN’s lineup unfilled.

CNN is making progress on some of these fronts. The network is considering new anchors, including White House correspondent Phil Mattingly and correspondent Rachel Solomon to join CNN veteran Poppy Harlow in the morning, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

Ethan Stephanopoulos, whom Mr. Licht hired last year as CNN’s chief digital officer, plans to generate $1 billion over the next several years. And the company is hosting a series of town hall forums for presidential contenders, including one next week with former New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

David Zaslav, the chief executive of CNN’s parent company, said on Wednesday that he was looking for a permanent replacement for Mr. Licht. Mr. Zaslav, who chose Mr. Licht without interviewing other candidates, said he was committed to a hiring process, even if it would take months.

Last week, Mr. Zaslav hired Mr. Levy, one of his longtime top advisers, to the job of chief operating officer at CNN. Hours after Mr. Licht was forced out on Wednesday, Mr. Levy called on the executives to go ahead in a meeting, saying that he had nothing but respect for Mr. Licht and his predecessor, Jeff Zucker.

“The Zucker Wars are over,” Mr. Levy said, according to two people with knowledge of his comments.

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