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Wednesday, Feb 01, 2023

CNN fires hundreds of employees amid economic uncertainty

CNN fires hundreds of employees amid economic uncertainty

CNN bloodbath: Network fires Chris Cillizza and correspondents Alison Kosik, Alex Field, host Martin Savidge and Robin Meade - AND scraps HLN's live programming in ruthless round of layoffs
International news network CNN bade farewell to hundreds of employees amid what the outlet called “the deepest cuts to the organization in years.”

The fairly new CEO of the network, Chris Licht, who took over in May, said in an all-staff memo that the layoffs were a “gut punch” adding that it was hard to let go of the valuable staffers.

“To our departing colleagues, I want to express my gratitude for your dedicated and tireless service and for your many contributions to CNN,” the memo read.

The CEO has warned the employees last month about the looming crisis and consequent cut down. Licht said that paid contributors would be impacted the most, with the outlet depending on its own journalists.

It has not yet been revealed exactly how many people have been fired by the number is estimated to be in hundreds out of the 4,400 employees.

According to CNN, the media industry is also being heavily affected by the “brutal economic headwinds that have taken a bat to the advertising sector.” The report said that other media outlets were also facing a tough time. The AMC Networks, for example, announced cutting 20% staff.

“All decisions are designed to strengthen the core of our business,” Licht informed in his memo. “Beginning December 6, CNN will no longer produce live programming for HLN and instead will simulcast CNN This Morning.”

The latest round of layoffs at CNN has hit some of the network's biggest names.

Political analyst Chris Cillizza, 46, who has been covering national politics, the White House and Congress for the cable giant since 2017, after coming over to the network from The Washington Post, was among those who were let go this week, Variety reported.

Cillizza tweeted Thursday afternoon, stating, 'my time at CNN was an absolute blast. I got to work with smart and dedicated journalists everyday,' he said.

'I'm sad it's at an end but also excited about what the future holds for me. Stay tuned.' 

The cable news giant also scrapped all of HLN's live programming, including longtime host Robin Meade, 53, who was with the weekday Atlanta-based morning show for more than 21 years. It is estimated that her annual salary is $3 million, making her one of the highest paid female anchors in the business. 

Business correspondent Alison Kosik, 51, who covers the New York Stock Exchange and has been at the network since 2007 was nixed. She earns an average annual salary of between $100,000 and $145,143. 

Alexandra Field, 31, who covers major breaking news events for CNN and CNN International, and has reported from more than 20 countries was dismissed. She was working from the network's Asia-Pacific headquarters in Hong Kong. She earns an estimated annual salary of $144,167.

Martin Savidge, 64, an anchor and correspondent for CNN based in the network's world headquarters in Atlanta, who returned to the network in 2011 was let go. 

Mary Ann Fox, Vice President of Northeast News, who oversaw the editorial direction and day-to-day operations of the New York Bureau, and had been at CNN since 2014, was also sacked this week. It's estimated that her yearly salary is $1 million.

The network also parted ways with several paid on-air contributors, reportedly New Yorker staff writer Susan Glasser.

Political analyst Chris Cillizza, 46, who has been covering national politics, the White House and Congress for the cable giant and who came over to the network from The Washington Post in 2017 was among those who were let go this week, Variety reported

The cable news giant also scrapped all of HLN's live programming, including longtime host Robin Meade, 53, who was with the Atlanta-based morning show for more than 21 years. She was one of the highest paid anchors

Business correspondent Alison Kosik, 51, who covers the New York Stock Exchange and has been at the network since 2007 was sacked this week during the network's first round of layoffs 

Alexandra Field, 31,  who has reported from more than 20 countries and covers major breaking news events for CNN and CNN International was nixed

Host Martin Savidge, 64,an anchor and correspondent for CNN based in the network's world headquarters in Atlanta, and who returned to the network in 2011, was let got this week 

Mary Ann Fox, Vice President of Northeast News, who had been at CNN since 2014 and oversaw the editorial direction and day-to-day operations of the New York Bureau was fired

Chris Cillizza sent out a tweet Thursday afternoon sharing the news with his peers 

On Thursday afternoon, Licht told staff in a memo. 'Our goal throughout the strategic review process has been to better align our people, processes and resources with our future priorities, strengthen our ability to deliver on CNN's core journalistic mission and enable us to innovate in the years ahead,' he said.

'At the highest level, the goal is to direct our resources to best serve and grow audiences for our core news programming and products.'

He also took a moment to thank 'Robin Meade,' whose long-running morning show Morning Express with Robin Meade that has been part of the HLN line-up since 2005, and was one of the most popular programming on the channel.

Though she had a smaller audience than other morning shows on MSNBC, Fox News and the broadcast networks (as well as sister channel CNN), she had a loyal audience, according to The Hollywood Reporter. 

Licht added: 'I want to take a moment to thank Robin Meade— she is not only an exceptionally popular anchor, but also one of the longest-running morning hosts in history,' he said. 

'I know the HLN audience will miss her and the other HLN talent.'

Chris Licht took over as Chairman and CEO of the network in May. He is best known as the showrunner and executive producer of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, as well as CBS's executive vice president of special programming

The layoffs were announced in this email sent by Licht on Wednesday 

CNN's top boss Chris Licht informed employees that layoffs would begin on Wednesday and continue Thursday as he lamented 'it will be a difficult time for everyone.'

Paid contributors at the cable network were told as early as Wednesday with full-time staffers being told in person and on Zoom Thursday whether they have a job or will be sacked, according to an internal memo that was distributed.

The layoffs come amid the cable news giant's cost cutting plan by its parent company Warner Bros. Discovery.

Warner Bros. Discovery is trying to integrate the legacy Warner Media businesses -like CNN - and the Discovery businesses.

When Licht took over as Chairman and CEO of the network in May 2022, he said he did not anticipate layoffs, but that story changed in October when he told employees some cost-cutting measures would be taking place translating into a number of staff changes and dismissals.

Licht took over after CNN's former head Jeff Zucker resignation in February.

The cuts would impact employees based in New York and Atlanta most significantly, according to a source, Variety reported.

Licht described in a town hall meeting that 'this is an organization that has had gut punch after gut punch after gut punch,' adding, 'most of the organizations out there wouldn't have survived.'

Rising inflation, decreasing ad revenue, drop in ratings in cable news and concerns from investors on the economic outlook, has been some of the reasons why CNN had to implement some draconian methods. 

Sources familiar with the company's finances estimated earlier this year that CNN is on track to miss its 2022 profitability target of $1.1 billion by more than $100 million, The New York Times reported 

Licht, who is best known as the showrunner and executive producer of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, as well as CBS's executive vice president of special programming, announced he would follow up with more details on the changes on Thursday afternoon.

The contents of the memo also stated that 'the affected employees would receive information about severance and their last day. Those who were eligible for 2022 bonuses would still receive them based on performance.'

'I know these changes affect both our departing colleagues and those who remain,' Licht wrote. 'And we have resources to support you.'

The job cuts have been anticipated and come at a time when companies are looking to rein in costs and trim their headcount to brace for an economic slowdown.

In October, Licht had warned CNN would be undergoing changes, citing 'widespread concern over the global economic outlook.' The changes would affect 'people, budgets and projects,' Licht had said.  

In August, Brian Stelter, chief media correspondent and host of the weekly media news show, Reliable Sources was axed from the cable network 

CNN's legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin was shown the door during Licht's takeover 

Another casualty of the network was veteran White House correspondent John Harwood 

Chris Cuomo was fired from CNN in December 2021 after his alleged involvement that he advised his brother, former disgraced New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, regarding allegations of sexual harassment- that he still denies



CEO's full memo to staff on day of purge December 1, 2022

To my CNN colleagues,

As promised in my note yesterday, I am following up with an overview of the changes we have made across the company. Our goal throughout the strategic review process has been to better align our people, processes and resources with our future priorities, strengthen our ability to deliver on CNN’s core journalistic mission and enable us to innovate in the years ahead. At the highest level, the goal is to direct our resources to best serve and grow audiences for our core news programming and products.

To achieve these goals, we will be reducing open job positions, reimagining our workflows and aligning our staffing, investments and focus around three key strategic priorities: programming, newsgathering and digital. All decisions are designed to strengthen the core of our business.

While it is not possible to capture every impacted role in an email like this, I want to walk through the broader changes we are making:

HLN

Beginning December 6, CNN will no longer produce live programming for HLN and instead will simulcast CNN This Morning. HLN Crime programming will move under the WBD Networks led by Kathleen Finch and will be merged with ID. I want to take a moment to thank Robin Meade— she is not only an exceptionally popular anchor, but also one of the longest-running morning hosts in history. I know the HLN audience will miss her and the other HLN talent.

CNN International

CNN International is reorganizing some of its teams and bureaus, and effective immediately, the 5:00-5:30pm ET show will be replaced by a simulcast of CNN US for that half hour.

CNN en Español

CNNE’s linear network will seek to expand its audience by diversifying the network’s programming beyond news. We will continue to produce news for CNNE, and throughout next year, we will look to develop a far more robust digital platform for CNNE with the aim of launching it in 2024. We believe that investment will better serve and significantly grow our Spanish-language news audience, and we will have more to share on that in 2023.

U.S. Newsgathering

We are restructuring across some of our beats, realigning resources to staff up in some units and in more areas around the country. This will help us deliver on our goal of covering the United States more broadly. Many of the staff reductions in Newsgathering will be offset by the addition of new roles to best serve our audience across platforms.

Contributors

We are also shifting our approach to paid contributors. In some areas, we will rely more on our CNN journalists. Overall, we will engage contributors who are subject-matter experts that expand and diversify the viewpoints we bring our audience.

Programming

Our programming teams will see some reductions in show staffs and, in some cases, the combination of teams for our dayside and weekend lineups.

Creative Marketing

The Creative Marketing team will see an overall reduction in size, realigning around in-house production and consolidating creative and strategy roles in New York. Roles will be added to both support that work and expand our digital and growth marketing efforts.

Research

Research is reorganizing to focus resources on CNN’s core businesses and to optimize our recently integrated Digital Analytics and Data Science teams.

Operations

The Operations teams are restructuring to align with the changes to other units across the organization.

CNN Digital

CNN Digital conducted an exercise earlier this fall to ensure they were best structured for the future. They made changes then and, as a result, there are no further impacts in this process.

The changes we are making today are necessary and will make us stronger and better positioned to place big bets going forward without fear of failure.

To our departing colleagues, I want to express my gratitude for your dedicated and tireless service and for your many contributions to CNN. To all employees, I want to underscore the importance of taking the time you need to best be able to move forward. You can find resources to support you now here. I will be holding a town hall on Tuesday to answer your questions, which can be submitted anonymously here.

I am proud of this CNN team, and together we will ensure CNN continues to be the world’s most vital source of news and information.


Chris

The new boss ushered out a number of high-profile talent that was under former network president Jeff Zucker and known to be critical of former President Trump.

In August, Brian Stelter, chief media correspondent and host of the weekly media news show, Reliable Sources which had aired for three decades. Licht vowed to clean up the network and move away from opinion broadcasting.

Another casualty of the network was veteran White House correspondent John Harwood and CNN's legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

In December 2021, popular host Chris Cuomo was shown the door. Though his show had been the most-watched show on the cable network at the time of his firing, often reaching 2 million viewers a night, his alleged involvement that he advised his brother, former disgraced New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, regarding allegations of sexual harassment- that he still denies.

When Licht took over the helm, the highly promoted paid streaming service CNN+ was shuttered a month after it's launch leaving many at the network unsettled about the company's future. 

Some of the new changes that took place earlier this fall have been revamping the channel's morning news program.

Licht pushed back on speculation that he wants CNN to be more centrist in its reporting, The Hill reported. 

'One of the biggest misconceptions about my vision is that I want to be vanilla, that I want to be centrist. That is bullshit,' Licht told the Financial Times last week. '

'You have to be compelling. You have to have edge. In many cases you take a side. Sometimes you just point out uncomfortable questions. But either way you don't see it through a lens of left or right.'
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