It seems pretty clear now: There’s something going on at CNN.
When media reporter Brian Stelter was recently pushed out the door as his show, “Reliable Sources,” was canceled, it raised eyebrows and sparked questions about CNN’s editorial move to the center.
But it was just one move.
Now comes another that makes the shift seem even more obvious. Since my newsletter last published, another notable CNN on-air personality is out. John Harwood, the veteran White House correspondent and one of the more respected reporters on the network, left CNN on Friday. And it was abrupt. He was on the air Friday morning and then at noon, he tweeted that it was his last day at CNN. He said he was proud of his work. He thanked his colleagues and wrote, “look forward to figuring out what’s next.”
That doesn’t sound like someone whose departure was long in the works. Neither did CNN’s rather chilly statement: “We appreciate John’s work covering the White House, and we wish him all the best.”
So it would seem as if Harwood was shoved out the door, just like Stelter. Also like Stelter, Harwood, who joined CNN in January 2020, had lots of time left on his contract. (Axios’ Sara Fischer reported it was at least two years.)
The Washington Post’s Jeremy Barr wrote, “Several current and former CNN employees who spoke with The Washington Post — most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly — are interpreting the sudden exodus as evidence that (Chris) Licht, who joined the network as chairman and CEO in May, is starting his tenure by casting out voices that had often been critical of former president Donald Trump and his allies, in an effort to present a new, more ideologically neutral CNN. That aligns with a vision repeatedly expressed by David Zaslav, the chief executive of Warner Bros. Discovery.”
One unnamed CNN journalist told Barr, “People are freaked out. It almost feels like there’s a pattern. Is there a purge going on? They seem to be sending a message: ‘Watch what you say. Watch what you do.’”
Harwood’s departure from CNN came shortly after his final on-air report in which he mentioned President Joe Biden’s speech that occurred the night before. In the speech, Biden called out Trump and his MAGA supporters as being a threat to America. In his report, Harwood called Trump a “dishonest demagogue” and said the “core point” of Biden’s speech was “true.”
Harwood said, “Now that is something that is not easy for us as journalists to say. We are brought up to believe there’s two different political parties with different points of view and we don’t take sides in honest disagreements between them. But that’s not what we’re talking about. These are not honest disagreements.”
Not long after he said that, Harwood was out.
Since then, “Boycott CNN” started trending on Twitter. That was also in part because of something CNN anchor Brianna Keilar said on Twitter. Talking about Biden’s speech, and two Marines standing behind Biden during the address, Keilar tweeted, “Whatever you think of this speech the military is supposed to be apolitical. Positioning Marines in uniform behind President Biden for a political speech flies in the face of that. It’s wrong when Democrats do it. It’s wrong when Republicans do it.”
CNN then did stories about it, including Keilar saying there were many who saw the image as problematic. Keilar was not alone in having an issue with Biden speaking in front of two Marines, but it does seem kind of a tad disingenuous for a journalist to raise an issue about something and then do a story saying there are those raising an issue about that thing.
While Twitter is not necessarily real life, one can’t help but notice that CNN viewers are growing frustrated with some of these recent developments. It would behoove Licht to get out ahead of this and explain what CNN is doing and where it is going.
Until then, let’s see if any of this viewer dissatisfaction shows up in the ratings.
What’s going on in Atlanta?
Longtime Atlanta Journal-Constitution business columnist Maria Saporta, who now has her own website called the Saporta Report, dropped a major story last week about her old employer. Saporta wrote that the AJC will discontinue its daily print edition and go to a weekend print edition. It will continue to have a digital news operation around the clock.
Saporta, who said her report was based on a half-dozen interviews with people close to the paper, wrote, “The time frame to implement the discontinuation of the daily print edition has not yet been decided, but sources say it likely would happen sometime in 2023 — most likely within a year from now.”
Saporta reported that senior editors were informed of the plans during a Zoom meeting last week. She also reported that there will be an all-staff meeting this Thursday. According to Saporta, Kevin Riley, editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, told staff in the invitation to the meeting, “It’s been a while since we’ve had an in-person newsroom staff meeting, but don’t worry, I promise there won’t be any shoes dropping at this meeting. Instead, I would like to get together and share exciting information as we plan for our future. The leadership team hopes you leave the meeting feeling as optimistic as we do about our path forward — a path that allows us to continue to produce our meaningful work for a long time to come.”
When asked by Saporta if the paper was dropping a daily print edition and would only print on Sundays, Riley told her, “No such decision has been made.” However, Riley did tell Saporta, “I can tell you that everyone knows that the future of our business is digital.”
Atlanta’s Fox5 reached out for a comment on the Saporta story and was told by AJC general manager Bala Sundaramoorthy, “As of now, we do not have concrete plans to scale back our seven-day print delivery, but eventually, that day will come. When we do decide to reduce our print schedule, it will be because our business is ready and our employees, subscribers, advertisers, and partners will be the first to know.”
The Journal-Constitution is owned by Cox Enterprises. The Saporta report comes on the heels of the news that Cox has reached an agreement to buy Axios for $525 million. But Saporta wrote, “According to people close to the AJC, Cox’s decision to acquire Axios was not related to the decision to discontinue the daily print product of the AJC.”
If the AJC does decide to eliminate several days of its print product, it will not be the first major metropolitan paper to do so. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Poynter-owned Tampa Bay Times do not print several days a week. Although, the Times does have an e-edition, which looks just like a print newspaper but is published digitally.
Longtime AJC sports columnist Jeff Schultz, who is now at The Athletic, tweeted, “Unfortunately economics and deadlines have made deadlines unworkable for writers and severely damaged the quality of the print product everywhere, not just at the AJC, my former employer. Most writers probably will be happy not to rush to jam an inferior product into the paper.”
Schultz added, “To give you an idea what it’s like for sportswriters, at the time I left the AJC I would have to have my print column in at 6 p.m. which is tough when a Braves game would start at 7:30. I could update/rewrite online as much as I wanted but the paper story was the lesser product. The obvious ripple effect is fewer people bought the print product in a digital age, and fewer companies bought ads, which impacted revenue streams. It’s a sad reality for a once great business that many of us grew up in and were passionate about. I fear for more job losses.”
For what it’s worth, the Saporta story said that the AJC has no immediate plans for layoffs.
Muir’s special interview
ABC “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir is in Ukraine and had an exclusive, in-person interview from Kyiv with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that aired during Monday’s newscast. Muir will anchor from Ukraine tonight, and his reporting on alleged war crimes in Bucha, Ukraine, will air tonight on a special edition of “Nightline” and will be available to stream on Hulu.
Zelenskyy told Muir he is not interested in negotiating with Russia to end the invasion.
“It’s a question of dialogue with terrorists,” Zelenskyy told Muir. “We cannot — you cannot discuss anything with terrorists. The majority of the world, majority of the countries, understand that we are dealing with a terrorist state after what they’ve done to our people, to civilian people.”
Zelenskyy added, “After rapes, after tortures, after murders, after we discovered a lot of dead bodies … it’s not a war, it’s pure and clear terrorism, which Russia is doing against our nation and occupation of our land. So, we cannot have any compromises with terrorists. We cannot have any dialogue with the terrorists.”
A newsy Labor Day
It might have been a holiday in the U.S., but there was some news on Monday. First, a federal judge — who had been appointed by Donald Trump — granted Trump’s request for a special master to review evidence seized from his Mar-a-Lago home last month. For more, check out CNN’s Tierney Sneed, Jeremy Herb and Marshall Cohen with “Takeaways from the ruling granting Trump’s request for a special master in Mar-a-Lago probe.”
This was a moment of good news for Trump. The Washington Post’s Perry Stein wrote the ruling “could slow down and complicate the government’s ongoing criminal probe.” The New York Times’ Alan Feuer, Glenn Thrush and Charlie Savage wrote, “While the order may ultimately serve only to delay the criminal inquiry into Mr. Trump, the scope and candor of Judge Cannon’s language and reasoning pointed to broader themes. Her ruling seemed to carve out a special exception to the normal legal process for the former president and reject the Justice Department’s implicit argument that Mr. Trump be treated like any other investigative subject.”
Meanwhile, across the pond, as they say, the United Kingdom has a new prime minister. It’s Liz Truss. The New York Times’ Mark Landler and Stephen Castle described Truss as a “party stalwart, hawkish diplomat and free-market champion” who will now lead a country “facing the gravest economic crisis in a generation.”
Landler has more with “A Hawkish Diplomat Takes Control, Facing Hard Times and Johnson’s Ghost.” And here’s a good piece from Politico’s Annabelle Dickson, Esther Webber and Emilio Casalicchio: “How Liz Truss did it.”
- For this “Plain English” podcast, The Ringer’s Derek Thompson interviews FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver in “Nate Silver on Why This Midterm Election Could Be the Weirdest in Decades.”
- Sunday night’s crazy college football game between LSU and Florida State ended with LSU losing because its extra point on a last-second touchdown was blocked. Here’s a fun look at ESPN/ABC studio analyst (and former Florida State quarterback) EJ Manuel watching the kick get blocked.
- Joy Taylor is leaving as co-host of Colin Cowherd’s radio/FS1 TV show “The Herd with Colin Cowherd.” Taylor, who has been on Cowherd’s show for three years, is leaving for another FS1 show called “Speak.” (It’s an updated version of “Speak For Yourself.”) On Monday, Cowherd gave Taylor a nice sendoff, which you can watch here. Jason McIntyre will replace Taylor on Cowherd’s show.
- From ProPublica, Beth Hundsdorfer of Capitol News Illinois and Molly Parker of Lee Enterprises Midwest with, “A Disabled Young Patient Was Sent to Get Treatment. He Was Abused Instead. And He Wasn’t the Last.”
- The Washington Post’s Molly Hennessy-Fiske with “White then Black residents abandoned Jackson, propelling its water crisis.”
- Esquire magazine with “Read an Excerpt From Stephen King’s ‘Fairy Tale.’”
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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