CNN Staffers ‘Freaking Out’ About Ratings and Policy to Tell the Truth

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New CNN management is toning down the partisanship at the network and talents inside the building don’t like it.

According to the New York Post, CNN staffers are “freaking out” about the direction and blaming the shift to the middle for the recent ratings declines.

“The problem is we are not a neutral country,” a source told The Post. “The ratings are getting worse because they are taking out all the bells and whistles. CNN’s ratings are as bad as local news ratings.”

Specifically, staffers disagree with new network head Chris Licht’s decision to scale back on the “sensationalism” that behooved CNN during Donald Trump’s presidency.

For background, CNN’s parent company WarnerMedia merged with Discovery Inc. earlier this year to form Warner Bros. Discovery. In the merger, Discovery gained control of content at CNN, HBO, TNT, and TBS.

Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has been open about their desire to pivot CNN away from an MSNBC wannabe. Zaslav and Discovery want to restore the credibility of the CNN brand.

Zaslav reiterated his point this week:

“Journalism first. America needs a news network where everybody can come and be heard; Republicans, Democrats,” Zaslav said.

It’s reasonable to predict that a news-first edict will not save viewership declines at CNN. While viewers say they want just the news, they often flock to the host with the strongest opinions. Chris Cuomo, not exactly the face of journalism, was the leading ratings-getter at CNN almost every night before he got the hook.

So, there is an understandable concern that shifting CNN in the direction of NewsNation — a recently established cable news network that airs newscasts instead of opinion programming — won’t bolster ratings.

But it’s not as if CNN 2.0 — the Jeff Zucker era — was a sustainable ratings play, either.

CNN began hemorrhaging viewers well before Discovery took over in May. CNN failed for the entire year of 2021 with programming catered to the most ardent leftists.

I mean, the network spent weeks promoting a story that said Joe Rogan took a horse-dewormer pill.

CNN finished the year with not a single program in the top 20 of cable news. The highest-rated CNN show in 2021, Cuomo Prime Time, ranked 25th overall.

Perhaps airing newscasts and telling the truth is not what American viewers want, though neither is whatever CNN had been doing for the past year.

It’s entirely possible that there’s no save-all solution for CNN. Saving a sinking cable network in 2022 is no simple task. The media is now fragmented, and individuals move the needle more than brands.

If CNN could find three Bill Mahers to usher in its new era, there would be a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel. If not, CNN may have to settle for mediocre ratings and more niche reach.

Discovery will put its most telling stamp on CNN this fall when it names a full-time replacement for Chris Cuomo at 9 pm. Rumored names for the spot include Laura Coates and Chris Wallace, two relatively lackluster options.

“We’re going to lean into [journalists]. We’re not going to look at the ratings and, in the long run, it’s going to be worth more,” Zaslav concluded of the network’s news-first edict.

In other words, if CNN is going to fail, it’s going to fail with a modicum of credibility. No wonder people in the building are “freaking out.”

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack is a writer for OutKick where he reports and analyzes the latest topics in media, culture, sports, and politics..

Burack has become a prominent voice in media and has been featured on several shows across OutKick and industry related podcasts and radio stations.

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