New CNN Boss Weighs Ousting Too-Partisan Hosts in Policy Shift

New CNN Boss Weighs Ousting Too-Partisan Hosts in Policy Shift chris licht poses for the cameras Chris Licht attends The Hollywood Reporter Most Powerful People In Media Presented By A&E at The Pool in New York City on May 17. (Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

By Sandy Fitzgerald | Tuesday, 07 June 2022 08:50 AM

CNN talent who can't adjust to being less partisan while the network pushes to tone back on programming that grew more polarizing while President Donald Trump was in office could lose their jobs, according to sources close to the matter.

The network's new president, Chris Licht, is evaluating programs and personalities to determine if they can be on board with a new network policy to return to straight journalism, the three sources told Axios, but they said he is willing to give some of the network's stars a chance to prove they will uphold the company's values on journalism.

That will mean that for the on-air talent, respectful interviews must be conducted, and for the producers and bookers, programming decisions must be made that are not based on "noise."

Under the leadership of former CNN president Jeff Zucker, CNN's overall tone became more opinionated and focused on personality programming and away from straight news that had been the focus in the network's early days, notes The Washington Post.

The shift during Trump's years has drawn fire from conservative critics, the former president included.

But a source told Axios that Licht does not want to move away from the personality programming that now marks the network, with its stars such as Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon, especially during prime time.

However, he does want to make sure the partisan voices who don't distract in a way that causes the network harm.

Licht took over at CNN in May after Zucker left the network amid scandals, including one involving a big personality, Chris Cuomo.

Both Licht and David Zaslav, the CEO of CNN parent company Warner Bros. Discovery, have said they want to return the network to traditional journalism and away from the alarmist programming that has in many cases taken its place.

Last week, Licht, in a memo to staff, called to curtail the use of the network's "breaking news" banners, telling the staff that the words are overused on every network and have lost their impact.

"We are truth-tellers, focused on informing, not alarming our viewers," he said in the memo.

Zaslav and billionaire investor John Malone have spoken out publicly about pushing for CNN to pull away from the network's increased liberal slant.

"I would like to see CNN evolve back to the kind of journalism that it started with, and actually have journalists, which would be unique and refreshing,” Malone told CNBC in a 2021 interview.