Chris Licht hasn’t made many friends at his new job. After layoffs, reassignments and a shift in strategic focus that angered some, CNN’s chairman and CEO recalled a specific ending, published today in the New York Times.
Warner Bros. Over lunch with Discovery chief David Zaslav, the president/CEO of CNN’s parent company indicated that their longtime relationship had fundamentally changed. “We’ve been friends for 15 years,” Zaslav told Licht. “We are not friends anymore. You work for me.”
It was the beginning of Licht’s attempt to transform CNN, which had drifted far to the left in previous years. Licht envisioned a less political and less partisan news outlet that would live up to its former slogan of being “the most trusted news outlet.” His Times profile noted that he wants to offer “rational conversation about polarizing issues” so that viewers “take what they heard (on CNN) to the dinner table and discuss it,” he said. “That’s my dream.”
So far, there have been mixed results. CNN’s Jake Tapper told the story of Kirsten Sinema’s move from Democrat to Independent. But its prime time run failed and ended a month later. Similarly, CNN’s “This Morning” has not fared well against its rival.
He also noted that he has faced a firestorm of criticism from liberals for trying to make CNN less partisan.
“The ignorant vitriol, especially from the left, has been astounding,” Licht said at one point. “Which proves my point. too much name-calling, half-truths and desperation for news.”