CNN assesses partisan talent as part of campaign to make coverage more neutral

New CNN boss Chris Licht is weighing whether the personalities and programming that became polarized during the Trump era can adapt to the network’s new priority to be less partisan.

Why is this important: If talent can’t adapt to a less partisan tone and strategy, they could be squeezed out, three sources familiar with the matter told Axios.

Details: Licht wants to give personalities who may seem polarized a chance to prove they’re willing to uphold network values ​​so as not to tarnish CNN’s brand of journalism.

  • For on-air talent, that includes engaging in respectful interviews that don’t feel like public relations stunts. For producers and bookers, this means making programming decisions based on nuance, not noise.

Between the lines: CNN’s tone has become more partisan and combative during the Trump era and under former CNN Chairman Jeff Zucker.

  • For conservative critics, certain on-air personalities, such as Jim Acosta and Brian Stelter, became the face of the network’s liberal turn.

Be smart: Licht doesn’t necessarily want to shy away from personality programming, especially in prime time, but he does want to make sure partisan voices don’t dominate in a way that harms CNN, a source notes.

  • Licht took over as head of CNN last month, shortly after longtime CNN chairman Jeff Zucker quit the network amid a scandal.
  • Its priorities are widely seen as aligned with the leadership of CNN’s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery.
  • CNN had no comment.

Catch up fast: Licht and the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, David Zaslav, have not been shy about aiming their goal at reversing partisan and alarmist programming in favor of mainstream journalism.

  • Last week, Licht told employees in a memo that the network had added a “Breaking News” directive to its stylebook, to combat overuse of the breaking news banner on its network and news. cable in the broad sense.
  • Licht said he agrees with complaints from “people inside and outside the organization” that the network is abusing the “Breaking News” banner.
  • “We are truth tellers, focused on informing and not alarming our viewers,” he said in the memo obtained by Axios.

The big picture: Zaslav and mentor and investor John Malone have publicly stated their desire to remove CNN from progressive commentary.

  • “I would love to see CNN go back to the kind of journalism it started with, and have reporters, which would be unique and refreshing,” Malone told CNBC last year.

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