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 restoring 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 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.