The Quest to Unwoke CNN

On Monday, Discovery announced that Chris Licht will succeed Jeff Zucker as the head of CNN when the company merges with WarnerMedia this spring. Licht, a longtime producer, most recently show-ran the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

“We will double down on what’s working and quickly eliminate what’s not,” Licht told staffers in an introductory letter.

Licht didn’t specify what is and is not working at CNN, but luckily television ratings are still public. It turns out that nothing at CNN is working.

Hosting a show on CNN was once a prestigious role. It meant you mattered—millions of people tuned in. Now, anchoring a show on CNN is mostly pitiful. CNN hosts are bitter school kids with no friends who use their platform to vent their misery to anyone who will listen. Except no one is listening anymore. Fewer than 700,000 watched any hour of CNN in January.

So Licht’s first assignment is to get people to watch CNN again. His new boss, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zasla, specified how Licht should achieve this objective. As first reported by Axios, Zasla has tasked Licht with dialing back the network’s “red-hot liberal opining” and restore CNN’s reputation as a respectable news organization.

In other words, Discovery wants the new boss man to unwoke CNN because woke CNN is failing.

To re-establish CNN’s reputation as a credible news agency, Licht would have to focus on firing the network’s hateful on-air zealots, not on hiring and promoting respected journalists. And therein lies the problem.

The voices and stories that go viral paint a network’s image. CNN’s problem is not its lack of credible journalists but its promotion of leftist kooks who are neither bright nor impressive.

CNN employs some of the best journalists in the industry. CNN’s chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward, who is presently reporting from Ukraine, does outstanding on-site reporting. Every network should line up and offer Ward seven figures a year tomorrow. Unfortunately, CNN’s eccentric opinionists undermine her work.

CNN also needs a quality digital team. Recently, the current staff pretended that a self-driving car killed people at a Wisconsin parade so that they didn’t have to discuss a black man committing mass murder against white people. Shameful motives like that offset Jake Tapper’s courageous coverage of China’s human rights violations during the Beijing Olympics.

A serious news outlet cannot employ characters like Jim Acosta and that agitated lady on the morning show who’s ashamed of her white skin. These people are not committed journalists, they are untalented grifters. They have become a parody of mainstream media hysteria and propaganda.

And yet, CNN’s most destructive voice has yet to enter the building. Well-known bigot Jemele Hill will anchor a program on CNN+ sometime this year. She will use her race to demand elevation inside the network, as she has done her entire career. She’s doing it now at Spotify. Nothing will undermine rehabbing the CNN name more than incorporating Hill and her mediocre skillset into the fold.

CNN must bury these people — metaphorically speaking, of course — if it’s committed to improving its reputation.

We won’t hold our breath though. CNN’s new management won’t simply move away from these far-Left commentators, even though no one likes them. Corporate leaders don’t operate in the outside world. They are cowards, followers, afraid of taking risks for fear they might run afoul of their fellow elitists.

A long list of companies have gone woke because doing so prompts Slate and social media NPCs to shower them with praise. Un-woking a brand will have the opposite effect. And fragile executives know it. That’s why they’ve never tried to do it. The very idea terrifies them. So they keep the status quo and make as few moves as possible.

Removing Don Lemon from primetime would be met with a fierce reaction. Some hack New York Times writer would declare it a symptom of systemic racism. That comes with threats, hit pieces, and possibly lawsuits.

Should Licht replace Brianna Keilar in the morning with a more in-depth anchor — and that wouldn’t be difficult to do — Keilar would probably accuse the network of creating a toxic workplace for female staffers.

Media sources say Licht is a creative producer, and we don’t doubt that he is. He led Colbert to No. 1 in late-night television. The question is whether Licht has the strength to weather an online riot if he dials back liberal partisanship.

Television producers, executives, agents and anchors all attend the same exclusive gatherings. So will Licht risk elites exiling him for his attempt to moderate CNN’s infatuation with both Jan. 6 and the beauty of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? Doubtful.

The quest to unwoke CNN will be daunting. Either swanky NYC glitterati call Licht and Discovery bigoted oppressors who are silencing diverse voices, or the likes of Don Lemon and Jemele Hill drag CNN down with them.

Chris Licht likely doesn’t mean it when he says he will “double down on what’s working and quickly eliminate what’s not.” Because that would imply common sense will drive decision-making. It doesn’t. Fear, not common sense, drives decision-making.

Now you see why you ought to never go woke. Those who take the plunge can never return to a place of sanity. Once you get into business with power-hungry leftists, you cannot undo your association with them quietly or even safely.

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack covers media, politics, and sports at OutKick.

9 Comments

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  1. don lemon a thin skinned gay negro he be checking off all the boxes still a far left pos douche bag that wouldn’t know the truth if it smacked him the face just spits out the company line glad I don’t have cnn

  2. The Colbert Show is the most liberal late night show of them all, literally unwatchable. I want my late night show to be jokes and interviews with celebs on upcoming movies, maybe sprinkle in a musician or two, not a nightly bashing of current (and most recently, former) administrations. If Licht can’t separate woke politics from a late night comedy show, why does anyone think he’ll do it on a news channel? All these channels do is listen to the loud and obnoxious minority on twitter, not the silent majority on ratings. Why do we expect Licht to do anything different?

  3. Aside from the obvious, that CNN is a bottomless cesspool of racist progressive nonsense, there is a an over-arching problem to cleaning it up that Bobby did not mention. The current Democratic Party sees themselves as moderates. Manchin is the “far right” of their party. They have described people like Adam Schiff, Sonia Sotomayor, and Chuck Schumer as moderate. They call Gavin Newsom a flagbearer for their politics. They think AOC and her Squad are not complete lunatics, or the fringe, but instead young and progressive.

    So when you talk about getting rid of the “red hot liberal” views at CNN, you’d have to fire everyone. Even that lovely reporter in Ukraine. Because if anyone there still thinks Adam Schiff has a shred of credibility, let alone thinks he is moderate, they have to go if Zaska actually wants to bring CNN back to the middle

  4. Nothing will change over there, especially if Trump enters the race. He`s the drug that CNN can`t / won`t say no to. Becoming woke is like terminal cancer. Your done…..It`s pretty hard to put out the dumpster fire once it starts.

  5. Are you trying to get a date with Clarissa or are you related to her? Lol. I joke I joke. Seriously though, CNN needs to clean house and get rid of everyone even if they just have the appearance of being a partisan. If they ever want to get back to being anything remotely close to a straight down the middle news channel this is the only way.

  6. If this new head honcho at CNN really wants to make a splash, is really serious about ridding the network of it’s leftist programming bias, especially with it’s primetime lineup, then what bigger splash they could make then to offer a mega million contract to Bill O’ Reilly and have him take over Lemon’s time slot, a conservative opinion show at the end of the news night that offers up serious content to it’s audience, while possibly causing FNC viewers to hit the clicker to see O’ Reilly again.

    Licht shouldn’t worry about twitter comments from a bunch of nobodies who are screaming and shouting to be heard, as if what they say matters. Bring back ‘Crossfire”, maybe with a rotating cast of right and left media commentators, as an ode to their past when they were the only game in town regarding cable news.

    Finally, seek out a solid, no nonsense news anchor, maybe someone from a Top 10-15 media market, not necessarily based in DC or NYC, to give viewers the news straight, with verified facts and without any editorial content, and allow the viewers to make up their own minds on how to think about it.

    Obviously what CNN has done hasn’t worked and when Trump labeled them, “fake news”, back in the 2016 campaign, that dubious distinction could very well stay with them for another 20 years. This new regime change needs to make a few dramatic moves to shake things up. I mean, how many more years will they let FNC shit all over their rose bushes and piss in their pool without doing SOMETHING to at least be more competitive in the ratings?

    Of course, after what I just suggested, I hardly expect any type of move like that to be made. If this Licht was cool with Colbert’s horrendous nightly monologue featuring a neverending rant against Big Orange, then I would only expect minor tweaks to their lineup and schedule instead of a major clear cut of all the rubbish that has kept them sucking hind teat.

    • Agree but disagree. CNN is what it is at this point and network cable TV news is and will continue to be a dying business model. Barring Trump in office, war, or an election year, ratings are going to continue to be bad. Seems too late in the lifecycle of this business model to make a huge pivot. People who hate CNN aren’t going to tune in and if they add a few conservative voices they will alienate their main demographic that prefer to stay in their echo chamber, who may choose to turn to MSNBC or any other MSM outlet.

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