CEO of CNN Worldwide Chris Licht is the focus of a recently released profile piece from The Atlantic entitled “Inside the Meltdown at CNN” —writer Tim Alberta paints a bleak picture of a media giant in decline.
The devastating profile revealed suggests that Licht may be losing support at the spiraling network; Axios highlighted five excerpts from the piece.
Town hall debacle: Backstage in New Hampshire last month, Licht told former President Trump: “Have fun.” Alberta twists the knife: “Trump obliged.” Licht knew in advance that the audience was what he called “extra Trumpy” — a phrase that lit up internal Slack channels. The upshot: “The only one who wasn’t angry, it seemed, was Trump, most likely because he’d succeeded in disgracing the network on its own airwaves.”
Lost the room:People at CNN think he’s “projecting this persona of a bulletproof badass because that’s what Zaslav wants to see. … Licht’s circle was small and getting smaller … Whereas he was guarded with CNN employees, our many hours of conversations began to feel like therapy sessions for Licht, safe spaces in which he vented grievances.”
Bad judgment on big moves: “Licht’s theory of CNN — what had gone wrong, how to fix it, and why doing so could lift the entire industry — made a lot of sense. The execution of that theory? Another story. Every move he made, big programming decisions and small tactical maneuvers alike, seemed to backfire. … I asked Licht to explain that mission … ‘Journalism. Being trusted. Everyone has an agenda, trying to shape events or shape thought. There has to be a source of absolute truth.'”
Obsessed with press: At a holiday dinner for his D.C.-based talent at Café Milano, Licht spent much of the dinner looking at his phone, including “reading a critical story about him in Puck.”
Obsessed with his predecessor, Jeff Zucker: Licht, who went from 226 pounds to 178 via a celebrity trainer, told Alberta why he was skipping a meal: “I’m a fucking machine.” Working out at his Manhattan gym, Licht “squatted down to grab a long metal pole lying flat on the ground. ‘Zucker couldn’t do this shit,’ Licht said through clenched teeth, hoisting the pole with a grunt.”
Licht’s attempts at cleaning house and rebooting the failed network have been largely unsuccessful and have included firing high-profile, far-left voices like Brian Stelter, Don Lemon, and more.
Read the full profile over at The Atlantic:
I spent stretches of the past year shadowing Chris Licht, the new boss at CNN, who harbored ambitions of rehabilitating the journalism industry.
This is an account — based on interviews with nearly 100 of his own reporters — of what went wrong.https://t.co/Um1YNzXaLF
— Tim Alberta (@TimAlberta) June 2, 2023