The New York Times Just Published an Exposé of CNN’s Leadership Drama

The network is reeling from its recent upheaval.

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CNN can’t catch a break. On Sunday, the New York Times published an investigation into the cable news giant’s leadership woes. It’s the second major article prying open CNN’s inner workings this week after the Atlantic published a 15,000-word piece titled “Inside the Meltdown at CNN” on Friday.

The Times‘ article, which it says is based on more than four dozen anonymous interviews with members of the media industry, details how the network’s former president Jeff Zucker has handled his ousting and the following takeover by current leader Chris Licht. Zucker resigned from the network in February 2022, after failing to disclose a relationship with CNN’s former communications chief Allison Gollust. Licht took over in May of that year.

Here’s a bit about what the Times says happened when Zucker and Licht got together for lunch: 

Months after he left CNN in February 2022, Mr. Zucker met with his successor, Mr. Licht. The organizers of that meeting — industry confederates who know both men — hoped that a lunch at Mr. Zucker’s house on Amagansett’s tony Hedges Lane would clear the air.

Mr. Zucker had been privately critical of Mr. Licht’s leadership of CNN, according to people who have spoken with him, and the two men hadn’t met since Mr. Zucker was pushed out.

The get-together didn’t kindle much bonhomie between the media executives, who had been friendly in the clubby world of TV news. Mr. Licht was seeking a rapprochement. Mr. Zucker was asked to give advice. But afterward, the former CNN president griped that Mr. Licht didn’t take any of his pointers, said a person familiar with his feelings following the meal.

“This is all very sad for Jeff,” said Kenneth Lerer, the co-founder of HuffPost and former chairman of BuzzFeed. “He should move on with his life. It’s disheartening to see.”

The article(s) come at a crucial moment for the network—and media broadly—as it decides how to cover the 2024 election and GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s tendency to spew falsehoods. CNN’s ratings, the Times reports, “were down more than 30 percent in the first quarter of this year compared with the same point in the 2020 presidential election cycle.” The article also reported that CNN’s news division’s profits, which once exceeded $1 billion, were down to just $750 million last year.

Read the full report here.

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