Good morning. I’ll be on assignment for the next few days, so the Poynter Report will be on a brief break and return next Tuesday. Now on to today’s report.
Looks like major changes are coming to CNN. And not in a good way.
Chris Licht, chairman of CNN, sent a memo to staff Wednesday, writing that a “noticeable change” is on the way. The memo came out just a few hours after CNBC’s Alex Sherman reported that budget cuts and layoffs are expected before year’s end.
In his memo to staff, Licht wrote, “There is widespread concern over the global economic outlook, and we must factor that risk into our long-term planning. All this together will mean noticeable change to this organization. That, by definition, is unsettling. These changes will not be easy because they will affect people, budgets, and projects.”
Sherman wrote, “Licht doesn’t have a specific order to cut a certain amount of jobs or save a specific percentage of spending. But he’s planning to cut parts of CNN that have become bloated over time, said (sources).”
The New York Times’ Benjamin Mullin wrote, “CNN will have operating expenses of about $882 million this year, according to estimates from S&P Global Market Intelligence. Even a single-digit percentage cut from that budget would shave millions of dollars and potentially dozens of jobs from the network.”
It has been quite the tumultuous year for CNN. It started with Jeff Zucker in charge, but he eventually was let go after failing to disclose he was in a relationship with one of his top executives. CNN ultimately was a part of a sale and is now under the Warner Bros. Discovery umbrella.
Low viewership shut down the ambitious CNN+ streaming service less than a month after it was launched. And CNN seems to be shifting its focus to become more centrist in its coverage, which has led to high-profile dismissals from the network, including media reporter and “Reliable Sources’” host Brian Stelter. In addition, the network recently shifted primetime anchor Don Lemon to a revamped morning show and is looking to name a permanent replacement in primetime for Chris Cuomo, who was fired late last year for helping his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, fend off multiple sexual misconduct allegations.
Sherman wrote, “(Licht) wants CNN to cover stories more like a newspaper and less like Politico, according to people familiar with his thinking. That means more stories that an average family would discuss around the dinner table and less obsessive focus on politics. He’d like to cover more business, technology and even sports, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions were private.”
Here’s a key point: viewership is down.
So to sum up, it’s been a topsy-turvy year that still has a few twists and turns left. Sherman reported that, overall, Warner Bros. Discovery could eliminate more than 1,000 jobs.
Licht took over in May and has spent the past several months delving into the business, meeting with other CNN executives and working on a game plan for the future.
Licht tried to put a positive spin in his memo, writing, “We will be strategic in this process and will minimize the impact on our core newsgathering operation and Digital, both of which have already executed smart changes. Let me be clear: I will not allow these changes to affect our position as the world’s leading news source, and we will continue to invest in growth areas. When we conclude this process, CNN will still be the largest, most-respected news gathering organization in the world. We will continue to cover any story, anywhere, any time — with more resources than anyone else. Full stop.”
- (Photo by: zz/John Nacion/STAR MAX/IPx)
Elon Musk has entered the building.
On Wednesday, the world’s richest person tweeted a video of himself holding a sink — yeah, you read that right — and wrote, “Entering Twitter HQ – let that sink in!”
Let that sink in … get it?
Shortly thereafter, he changed the bio on his Twitter page to read “Chief Twit.”
Good thing he can build electric cars because he likely won’t make it as a comedian.
All this comes ahead of what is expected to (finally) be a deal for Musk to buy the social media platform for $44 billion. The deal must be closed by Friday or it goes back to court. Wednesday’s activity suggests the deal is going to get done.
In an email obtained by CNN, Twitter chief marketing officer Leslie Berland told staff, “As you’ll soon see or hear, Elon is in the SF office this week meeting with folks, walking the halls, and continuing to dive in on the important work you all do. If you’re in SF and see him around, say hi! For everyone else, this is just the beginning of many meetings and conversations with Elon.”
This is a nervous time for those staffers. The Washington Post’s Elizabeth Dwoskin, Faiz Siddiqui, Gerrit De Vynck and Jeremy B. Merrill reported last week that “Musk told prospective investors in his deal to buy the company that he planned to get rid of nearly 75 percent of Twitter’s 7,500 workers, whittling the company down to a skeleton staff of just over 2,000.”
Are endorsements going away?
It was nearly two years ago to the day that I wrote a story asking “Why do newspapers still make political endorsements?”
It was less than a month before the 2020 election and editorial boards from newspapers around the country were writing endorsements for various political races, including president of the United States. Knowing that endorsements likely angered and alienated half the readership, as well having a lessening influence, I asked several editorial page editors why newspapers even bothered with endorsements anymore?
I spoke with opinion editors from the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, the Boston Globe and the Orlando Sentinel. All three defended the practice, with the Star Tribune’s Scott Gillespie telling me at the time, “If a newspaper chooses to have an editorial voice representing the institution, it should take its leadership role seriously. We publish more than 400 editorials from our Editorial Board. It would be an abdication of that leadership role to sit out elections. We also want to be widely read and be relevant, and our endorsements generate readership and spark healthy debate — on our website and no doubt at kitchen and dining room tables.”
However, in the two years since then, many newspapers have ceased making endorsements. Earlier this year, Alden Global Capital said its publications — which include the Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, Denver Post and San Jose Mercury News — would no longer endorse candidates for president, governor and senate.
The data shows that in 2008, 92% of the country’s largest (by circulation) 100 papers endorsed a candidate. By 2020, that number had dropped to 54%.
The Associated Press’ David Bauder wrote this week about how endorsements are fading away. Carol Hunter, executive editor of the Des Moines Register, told Bauder, “I do think you can make the argument in many cases that they’ve outlived their usefulness because of the increased polarization and the skepticism of media in general. I don’t think that’s a healthy trend. But I think that’s reality.”
My Poynter colleague Rick Edmonds noted to Bauder that some readers don’t like to be told what to do and some papers have taken on a don’t-rock-the-boat mentality.
Whatever the case, look for fewer endorsements as time goes on. That’s too bad, actually. As Mike Lafferty, who was the Orlando Sentinel’s editorial page editor in 2020, told me at the time, “The purpose of editorials is to express institutional opinions, often about laws and policies that affect people. It seems natural that we would also express institutional opinions about the people who are running to make those laws and create those policies.”
The New York gubernatorial debate was hosted Tuesday by Spectrum’s NY1.
But NY1 didn’t get credit in the original New York Times print edition story. That irked NY1 anchor Pat Kiernan. On air, Kiernan said, “The reporters and editors at the Times seem to have gone out of their way not to mention Spectrum, not to mention New York 1 has hosted the debate, they refer to the moderators namelessly in this article. … This is not the first time this has happened.”
He also said, “I’m not happy, I don’t think they’re playing fair here, and this has happened repeatedly.”
Over top of the video posted on Twitter, Kiernan wrote, “Every day on TV I recognize the good work of the people at the @nytimes. Is it too much to ask that they do the same?”
As it turned out, his message was received and understood. And fixed.
Just a couple of hours after Kiernan posted his complaint, New York Times’ deputy metro editor/politics Dean Chang tweeted to Kiernan, “Pat, this was an oversight in the heat of making a print deadline. We love NY1, and made numerous references to NY1 in our live blog. We’ve now added references to NY1 and the moderators to the takeaways story on the web.”
Chang then linked to the Times’ online story that credited NY1 and debate moderators Susan Arbetter and Errol Louis.
Kiernan tweeted back, “Appreciate the response.”
- Sonal Shah will become CEO of The Texas Tribune, one of the biggest nonprofit news organizations in the country. Shah is currently the interim executive vice president at United Way. She moves to her new role at the start of 2023. Shah takes over for Texas Tribune co-founder Evan Smith, who announced earlier this year that he would step down after 13 years.
- The latest episode of Derek Thompson’s “Plain English” podcast for The Ringer is a conversation with Semafor co-founder Ben Smith.
- Speaking of podcasts, check out Richard Deitsch’s latest sports media podcast and his conversation with podcaster and former ESPN journalist Jemele Hill. The conversation centers around Hill’s news memoir: “Uphill.”
- Writing for Poynter, Regina Lawrence with “We mapped local news in Oregon. Here’s how it can be stronger.”
- The Washington Post’s Annie Gowen with “At small-town radio station, the right-wing misinformation effort goes local.”
- The New York Post’s Alexandra Steigrad with “NewsNation fired reporter who questioned network’s ‘mission’ after airing Trump rally.”
For The New York Times, Leah Worthington with “The Young Woman Behind a Last Mystery of the Green River Killer.”
The latest from The Washington Post’s “Black Out” series about the lack of diversity among NFL head coaches. In this piece, it’s Emily Giambalvo with “How NFL teams use Black coaches to clean up their messes.”
National Geographic with “25 breathtaking places and experiences for 2023.”
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at email@example.com.
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