William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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CAPTAIN, MY CAPAIN – OVERNIGHT:  Time out for a moment from war coverage.  CNN has a new chief, and we cautiously note that he seems to be having a positive impact.  From Newsbusters: 

In an interesting “scoop” published Saturday, Axios reported that CBS’s executive vice president of Special Programming Chris Licht, who was tapped to replace ousted CNN boss Jeff Zucker to lead the third-place cable network, wants to get back to CNN being a straight news outlet and cut back on the liberal screeds that dominate prime time and their newscasts in general.

The Axios headline said it all: “CNN to dull its liberal edge.” “Under new chief Chris Licht, CNN will dial down the prime-time partisanship and double down on the network's news-gathering muscle,” reported Mike Allen and Sara Fischer.

According to Axios, Licht was picked by Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav because “[r]atings are secondary to credibility[.]”

Both of which are foreign concepts to CNN currently.

“Axios is told that Licht and Zaslav share a view that CNN was chasing prime-time ratings at the expense of the brand,” the writers said in their “between the lines” section. “Zaslav wants to move CNN back to the middle.”

They also noted Licht’s history of making some popular programming, seeing as he’s the “showrunner of ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’” and “succeeded with three very different programs.” Those programs included Colbert, the “ratings jolt” for CBS Evening News, and “co-creator” of Morning Joe on MSNBC.

COMMENT:  We've commented that CNN's coverage of Ukraine has been very solid.  If this reflects the influence of Mr. Licht, more power to him.  But it will be a long struggle to win back the battalions of viewers that CNN has lost.  And there will still be pressure from some parts of the journalistic establishment to continue the liberal slant that has weakened the network.  We'll watch Licht's journey carefully.

February 26, 2022