Can Chris Licht and David Levy fix CNN?

The apology tour started first thing on Monday. “I know the past few days have been very difficult for this group, and I am fully aware that this news cycle and my role in it has overshadowed the wonderful week of reporting we had just done and distracted us from the work of every journalist in this organization, and for that, I am sorry,” Chris Light He said at the top of CNN’s morning opening call, audio clips from it Immediately They found their way into the press. As I read this article, I found myself thinking, CNN isn’t about me. I shouldn’t be in the news, unless it’s taking arrows for you. There are parts of this article and characterizations that have been made where I don’t identify myself. But there are others who do. This experience was so disgraceful, and for those whose trust I’ve lost I will fight like hell to get it back.”

Licht was referring, of course, to Atlantic Ocean‘s A devastating autopsy In his first year he led the beleaguered news network, which dissolved in the wake of the highly controversial news channel Donald Trump The town hall that Licht had sponsored weeks before. 15,000-word fly-on-the-wall profile by Tim Alberta It wasn’t a typical takedown so much as the kind of full access feature where the writer essentially hands his subject some ropes and the subject hangs himself. In the media world of gossip and schadenfreude, it’s all anyone has been talking about since the article was shot down on Friday morning, and the ramifications are still being assessed. The question now is whether, and to what extent, the complex situation will continue to spread.

Licht will presumably be keeping his hands on the controls for some time to come. However, it’s also easy to imagine potential headlines a few months down the road: Chris Licht is stepping down from his turbulent role as CEO of CNN. President of Warner Bros. Discovery David Zaslav Thank him for his contributions to the company. He plans to take a break and spend more time with his family before figuring out his next move. (or even – never say never! –Chris Licht will return to his famous role as Executive Producer of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.)

Looks like this combo has already been seeded. “In the last 48 hours it has become clear, based on conversations with good sources, that Zaslav’s once unwavering support has fluctuated considerably,” he said. Dylan Byers mentioned. write to New York, Brian Stelter (Who is also a contributor to VF) came on a More brutal assessment From employees within the network, who shared their impressions as follows: “It’s over.” “Done.” “There is no going back from this profile.”

On Monday, I phoned some sources plugged into thinking at the top to try and get my own read on where Licht stands. For what it’s worth, I didn’t come out of those conversations thinking he was definitely a goner; It may be too early to measure one way or the other. As one source put it, “This doesn’t have to be fatal at all.”

The thing that has come up in my chats is that Zaslav is not happy with where things are with CNN in general and that his concerns have been circulating for several months now. (For those of you who have been following, ratings are down, morale is in the tank, and a fully formed programming slate has yet to form.) I was told that in February he had begun a conversation about bringing in a chief operating officer to work alongside Licht as a stabilizing force, and to strengthen management. the network ; Conversations about this person being a lieutenant and confidant of Zasalf have been around for a long time David Levy whose date was announced the previous day Atlantic Ocean A hit piece, hot over the past month. (By the way, Zaslav did not know that there was a whole year Atlantic A piece in the works until a few weeks before it was published when WBD’s head of communications put the kibosh on a taped interview he was negotiating.)

The case for the Licht-Leavy turnaround plan is this: Licht can focus on the programming side of things (in addition to the now daunting task of rebuilding trust within CNN’s sprawling network of journalists around the world), while Leavy handles company culture, operations, commercial matters, etc. To that, you can choose to believe this or not, but I’m told Licht and Leavy have developed a strong relationship and become true friends over the past year, going out to dinner with their wives and all of that. Also, while it’s easy to peg Leavy as a bean counter, my understanding is that he actually has connections with CNN producers and on-air talent that goes back to his years working in the Clinton White House in the ’90s, which is good. Well, that certainly doesn’t hurt. (No comment on any of this from CNN or WBD.)

What then? In the near term, Levi, who lives in D.C., is heading to New York this week to roll up his sleeves, hide, and figure out what to do. As Stelter reported over the weekend and also confirmed, his phone was blasting with calls from CNN reporters, who were upset about everything going on. So this week Leavy’s schedule will be exactly what you’d imagine it to be: meetings outside wazoo. As for Licht’s long-term fate, only time will tell.

This article has been updated.


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