CNN Chairman Chris Licht apologizes to staff as questions grow about his future

Tribune Content Agency

CNN Chairman Chris Licht is trying to win back the support of his troops following a disastrous magazine piece about his first year at the network.

Licht expressed regret Monday to staffers about the Atlantic profile by journalist Tim Alberta, described by many media industry longtimers as an unusually damaging story about a prominent media executive.

The piece comes after a tumultuous period for CNN under Licht’s tenure that has been marked by cost-cutting pressures, programming missteps and declining audiences.

Executives and employees throughout CNN and its Warner Bros. Discovery were outraged by the story, and the top conversation internally is how much longer Licht can last in the job, according to several insiders who were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Licht gave unfettered access for the Atlantic article, considered an unusual decision in itself when a company or network is undergoing a makeover. In the story, Licht disparaged CNN coverage under his popular predecessor Jeff Zucker while appearing to be oddly obsessed with him.

The story — “Inside the Meltdown at CNN” — also stated what many inside CNN say privately: that Licht has been an isolated leader primarily concerned with Warner Bros. Discovery Chief Executive David Zaslav’s mandate that the network be more hospitable to Republicans and address his perceived need to restore trust with viewers.

Based on his remarks he made at the network’s morning meeting, Licht recognized the damage the piece has caused internally.