New CNN chief: ‘We are not going to be a 24/7 Trump news network’
Chris Licht, CNN’s new top boss, said the network will not cover former President Trump as much as it did during his first run for president in 2016 and his four years in the White House.
“We have fact checkers ready to go. We will put things in perspective. We will not let everything he does consume the news cycle, right?” Licht said this week during an appearance on the podcast “On with Kara Swisher.” “There are other things that are important.”
Under previous CNN leadership and former top network boss Jeff Zucker, Licht said CNN and other news outlets “let every little thing that he did consume everything, and so you ended up talking about him for eight hours a day.”
“And we’re not going to do that,” Licht said. “We’re going to be very clear and take everything on a case-by-case basis about what level of coverage it should be.”
Swisher pressed the network’s new leader, asking, “Even if he raises ratings?”
“Correct,” Licht said.
Trump announced a third run for president on Tuesday night, and CNN broadcast the first 20 minutes of his speech live before cutting away to offer fact checks and political analysis of the former president’s statements. Fox News carried Trump’s speech the longest of any television network before it also cut away and eventually rejoined the event, while MSNBC did not offer any live continuous coverage of Trump’s remarks as they were happening.
Licht has spent the months since taking over this summer laying out his vision for the company to its employees and advertisers while he implements a slew of key talent and programming changes, some of which that have been met with trepidation within the network and sparked criticism externally.
Licht, a morning show veteran who most recently worked as the top showrunner on “Late Night with Stephen Colbert,” earlier this year canceled CNN’s weekly Sunday media affairs program and moved star anchor Don Lemon the network’s early morning news program.
Licht also briefly moved anchor Jake Tapper, a staple of the network’s afternoon programming, to prime time before Tapper returned to his afternoon slot after last week’s midterm elections.
Licht has telegraphed a vision for CNN that uses a more sober approach to covering straight news and provide its audience with a wider array of viewpoints on politics and current events. It comes at a time of sluggish ratings for the global cable news company.
“I don’t, do not, want someone who’s producing an hour of television on CNN saying, ‘You know what? I could lead with this or I could lead with that. I’m going to lead with that because it’ll get a better number.’ I want people leading and stacking their shows in a way based on journalism and what’s important,” Licht told Swisher. “Let me worry about the ratings. Chase stories, not ratings.”
There are ominous financial realities looming over CNN and its parent company Warner Bros. Discovery, like all other major media companies given the broader economic outlook.
Last month, Licht confirmed CNN would face a series of layoffs and cuts, which are expected to take place in December.
“Regardless of the number [that needs to be cut], the job is to … it’s not a number. It is, what does it take to run CNN? What does it take to run the company that we bought and love and strip away things that aren’t core to our mission?” Licht said. “And they may think it’s this. I may think it’s that. We will argue, we’ll get to a point. So for me, it’s all about fighting for the core asset that they have bought and love.”