Does CNN’s Turmoil Mean There’s No Room on Cable for Independent News?

Several of them pointed to an early miscue from on high that bred early mistrust — and undercut Mr. Licht — with the CNN staff before the merger of Discovery and WarnerMedia, CNN’s corporate parent, was even complete.

In an interview on CNBC in November 2021, a prominent Warner Bros. Discovery board member, the cable pioneer John Malone, appeared to denigrate CNN and praise Fox News while discussing his own hopes for CNN under the new corporate structure.

“Fox News, in my opinion, has followed an interesting trajectory of trying to have news news, I mean some actual journalism, embedded in a program schedule of all opinions,” Mr. Malone said. “I would like to see CNN evolve back to the kind of journalism that it started with, and actually have journalists, which would be unique and refreshing.”

It was taken as a slight to what was, in fact, a news organization brimming with distinguished journalists. Many of them revered Mr. Zucker, who was forced out in February 2022 after failing to report a romantic workplace relationship.

“His suggestion that CNN’s thousands of journalists were not real was deeply insulting,” said Brian Stelter, the network’s former top media correspondent and a former reporter at The New York Times. (Under Mr. Zucker, Mr. Stelter had emerged as the embodiment of the network’s sometimes combative defense against “fake news” attacks that Mr. Trump waged against the network, and a regular target of conservative criticism. He would become one of the first high-profile anchors Mr. Licht cut.) “I think the takeaway for many CNN staffers was that Malone wanted CNN to be more like Fox.”

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