CNN Worldwide President Jim Walton quits

Associated Press | CNN
CNN Worldwide President Jim Walton is resigning, telling staff in a memo, “CNN needs new thinking.” He’ll stay on through the end of the year as the company searches for a replacement.

In May CNN posted its worst ratings since 1991, and it lags behind Fox News and MSNBC in prime-time ratings. The month before, CNN posted its worst ratings in a decade, though Walton said that didn’t impact the company’s bottom line much: “Keep in mind, the advertising revenue that we bring in for the prime-time revenues for CNN U.S. is less than 10% of the overall revenue,” he told Keach Hagey.

CNN initially misreported the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the health care verdict; the error was carried on air, on its website and on social platforms. It was slow to correct the mistake, though it later issued a correction and an apology. Fox News also got the ruling wrong at first.

The AP’s David Bauder reports:

CNN’s ratings traditionally fluctuate based on the intensity of the news. Fox and MSNBC have insulated themselves from that problem somewhat through its partisan prime-time hosts. Walton has resisted this approach, believing CNN’s strength lies in being a nonpartisan news source and the company’s reputation would be damaged worldwide if the U.S. network changed.

Walton said he doesn’t expect that to change after he leaves.

“We kind of know who we are and our corporate colleagues know who we are and there has always been great support internally that we’re going to be a news organization,” he said.

But in a story in June about CNN’s struggles, Politico’s Dylan Byers quoted experts who said the network lacks a clear editorial strategy.

There is now, according to industry experts, a very real possibility that without a coherent strategy, the only nonpartisan network left on cable could become largely irrelevant to the national conversation. …

“CNN doesn’t seem to want to reframe itself according to the new identity of cable, but it doesn’t seem committed to an alternative strategy,” said Robert Thompson, the director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. “They’re sticking with the brand that they’ve always been, and they’re having real ratings problems across the board.”

Previously: SCOTUSblog details in 7,000 words how CNN, Fox got Health Care ruling wrongCNN’s historically dismal ratings are just one of many headaches for broadcastersCNN ratings drop not bad (yet) for its bottom line

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