Wednesday was a rough day for CNN. Today will be even worse.
Long anticipated layoffs are underway.
How bad is it? It’s being described as a “gut punch.” And that’s coming from the man in charge of the network. Chris Licht, who took over as CNN’s chief executive in May, sent a memo to staff on Wednesday. He wrote, “It is incredibly hard to say goodbye to any one member of the CNN team, much less many. I recently described this process as a gut punch, because I know that is how it feels for all of us.”
In his note, Licht wrote that Wednesday’s layoffs involved a limited number of people — mostly paid contributors. Today’s layoffs, Licht wrote, will impact full-time employees. CNN’s Oliver Darcy wrote the cuts are “expected to impact hundreds of staffers at the global news network and mark the deepest cuts to the organization in years.”
CNN is estimated to have around 4,000 employees.
The New York Times’ Benjamin Mullin wrote, “The cuts will affect a broad swath of employees, according to two people with knowledge of the decision. Executives have discussed cutting $100 million in costs, but Mr. Licht has said he would try to preserve news gathering jobs. The network’s most high-profile anchors are not expected to be affected.”
It’s a dicey time for CNN as the network tries to adjust to new ownership (Warner Bros. Discovery) and a relatively new boss in Licht, who is hoping to shift the network’s coverage to have more mass appeal. According to Nielsen, CNN’s total viewership numbers trail chief competitors MSNBC and Fox News, although CNN is competing with MSNBC in the important 24-to-54 demographic.
As the Wall Street Journal’s Joseph De Avila notes, “Warner Bros. Discovery has already laid off about 1,000 employees since April as the company cuts costs and grapples with high debt. Those cuts included staffers at HBO, the Warner Bros. movie and television production units and previous reductions at CNN.”
Earlier this year, CNN’s much-ballyhooed streaming service, CNN+, was shut down less than a month after its launch. And Licht, by that point, had already warned that deep cuts were coming.
Then in mid November, Licht told podcaster Kara Swisher, “Look, these are my cuts. I own this. This is my strategy and if I thought that there was a cut that … I thought would be … not in the interest of this company, I would push back hard. And I’ve not had to do that.”
Darcy wrote, “CNN, which still posts profits in the hundreds of millions of dollars, was spared from the cuts that wreaked havoc on the industry during the pandemic. Prior to this year, the last major cuts to occur at the organization were in 2018 when fewer than 50 people lost their jobs as the company restructured its digital business.”
But these cuts, no doubt, are severe.
Licht told staff in his memo, “It will be a difficult time for everyone.” He added, “I know these changes affect both our departing colleagues and those who remain, and we have resources designed to support you. … Let’s take care of each other this week.”
CNN wasn’t the only major media outlet to have grim news on Wednesday. The Washington Post announced it is ending the print version of The Washington Post Magazine. The last print issue will be Christmas Day. The magazine has 10 staff members, and the Post confirmed in several reports that those positions are being eliminated.
In an email sent to staff on Wednesday, Post executive editor Sally Buzbee wrote, “Earlier today we met with The Washington Post Magazine team to inform them that we will end the print Sunday Magazine in its current form as we continue to undergo our global and digital transformation.”
Buzbee’s note added the Post “will be shifting some of the most popular content, and adding more, in a revitalized Style section that will launch in the coming months.” The Washington Post’s Sarah Ellison, who has more on this story, reported that the Sunday magazine launched in its current form in 1986.
Ellison pointed out that, “Five of the 40 Washington Post stories that drew the most online readers over the past year were produced by the magazine. They include a profile of then-Senate candidate J.D. Vance, the tangled saga of several separated siblings reunited through DNA testing, and longtime staff writer David Montgomery’s portrait of the shifting political demographic in Wyoming, ‘the Trumpiest state in the nation,’ as its voters turned on Rep. Liz Cheney.”
Bad question, great answers
For the first time ever, a Finnish prime minister visited New Zealand this week. On Wednesday, there was a joint press conference with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Finnish counterpart Sanna Marin.
During it, a journalist asked a question that started off cringeworthy and devolved into disrespectful. The question started with “A lot of people will be wondering are you two meeting just because you’re similar in age and, you know, got a lot of common stuff there.”
The implication is that Ardern and Marin were meeting because they’re both women and close in age (Ardern is 42; Marin is 37).
Ardern quickly shut down the premise of the question in a cutting and yet graceful way, saying, “I wonder whether or not anyone ever asked Barack Obama and (former New Zealand Prime Minister) John Key if they met because they were of similar age. We, of course, have a higher proportion of men in politics, it’s reality. Because two women meet, it’s not simply because of their gender.”
Ardern then went through the list of why the leaders of Finland and New Zealand would meet.
Marin got straight to the point by saying, “We are meeting because we are prime ministers.”
Your favorite journalism movies
Back in April of 2019, not long after I joined Poynter as a senior media writer, I put together my list of the best 25 journalism movies of all time. I’m pretty sure it’s the most read piece I’ve written for Poynter. More than three years later, I still get emails telling me I’ve overlooked a movie such as “Deadline U.S.A.” or arguing that “The Post” should’ve been higher than where I had it at No. 14.
So, my Poynter colleague Annie Aguiar had a great idea. She would go to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Reddit and ask Poynter followers to list their favorite journalism movies. She then tallied up the results and put together this: “We asked, you answered: Here are your favorite journalism movies.”
When I put together my list, No. 1 was a no-brainer. It’s “All the President’s Men.” The list that Annie assembled does not have “All the President’s Men” at the top. But it’s still a good list. Check it out.
Here’s a story that started kind of ugly, but then had a sweet ending. On Tuesday, while calling a hockey game between the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning, Bruins TV play-by-play announcer Jack Edwards made some derogatory comments about the weight of Lightning player Pat Maroon, who is listed at 6-foot-3, 238 pounds.
“That was Day 1 of training camp,” Edwards said while play was going on. “I’ve got a feeling he’s had a few more pizzas between then and now. (Intermittent) fasting for Pat Maroon is like four hours without a meal.”
Edwards did note that Maroon won three consecutive Stanley Cup championships from 2019 to 2021 and said, “But hey, three Cups in a row, who can argue with his formula?”
Still, many reacted on Twitter, criticizing Edwards for body-shaming Maroon. Frank Seravalli, president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, tweeted, “A blowhard broadcaster fat-shaming a professional athlete and three-time Stanley Cup champion. @patmaroon doesn’t deserve that. No one does.”
Maroon’s reaction? He tweeted this on Wednesday afternoon: “In support of those struggling with mental health, bullying and body image I am making a 2,000 donation in the name of @realjackedwards to @TampaBayThrives and I encourage @TBLightning and @NHL fans to join me. Donate here:”
Then he linked to the Lightning’s foundation page.
See, something kind out of something rotten.
Maroon’s classy response then prompted responses from others around the league, including the Carolina Hurricanes organization, which tweeted, “We stand with @patmaroon in supporting those who struggle with mental health, bullying, and body image. We encourage #Canes fans to donate $19 out of spite for Jack Edwards.”
- ProPublica had a rather lengthy editor’s note: “A Review of Criticisms of a ProPublica-Vanity Fair Story on a COVID Origins Report.”
- NPR’s David Folkenflik with “NPR to impose near-freeze on hiring but avoids layoffs as budget cuts loom.”
- Catherine Kim has been named senior vice president of NBC News Editorial. She had been senior vice president of digital news for NBC News and MSNBC. In her new role, Kim will oversee newsgathering operations across NBC News platforms, including both digital and TV. Variety’s Brian Steinberg has more.
- New York Times’ opinion columnist Lydia Polgreen with “Protect Our Democracy. Support Local News.”
The Atlantic’s Mark Leibovich with “Just Wait Until You Get to Know Ron DeSantis.”
The Wall Street Journal’s E.B. Solomont with “‘It’s Been Awkward.’ Pickleball Is Pitting Neighbor Against Neighbor in Noise-Conscious Communities.”
Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie has died. She was 79. No cause of death has been announced. Songs McVie wrote (and sang lead on) include “Don’t Stop,” “Say You Love Me,” “Everywhere,” “Hold Me,” “Over My Head” and “Little Lies.” So let’s close today’s newsletter with this live performance of the classic “You Make Lovin’ Fun” from 1997.
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