Chris Licht, CNN’s future president, told staff on Monday that he intends to “double-down on what’s working well and promptly remove what isn’t.”
Discovery CEO David Zaslav revealed that Licht, who is presently Stephen Colbert’s senior producer at CBS, will take over as CNN president in May, replacing Jeff Zucker. That’s when Discovery expects to complete its acquisition of Warner Media, CNN’s parent firm.
Licht managed “CBS This Morning” and helped launch “Morning Joe” on MSNBC with presenter Joe Scarborough before guiding Colbert’s “Late Show” to the top of the late-night ratings.
“At heart, I am a journalist,” Licht said in a message to CNN workers on Monday. “While I loved every minute of my time on the ‘Late Show,’ I’m joining CNN because I feel compelled to return to reporting at this vital juncture in history.”
“A vibrant and innovative producer, an engaging and smart journalist, and a real news person,” Zaslav said of Licht. Before Discovery confirmed Licht’s pick on Monday, word of his selection traveled extensively over the weekend.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Monday, Scarborough said, “I believe he’s a fantastic fit over there.” “He’s a fantastic blend of a visionary producer and a straight-shooter who gets things done.”
Scarborough also believes that Licht is the appropriate guy to restore CNN’s focus on reporting over opinion.
That’s been mentioned as a possible shift in direction, but it hasn’t been declared clearly as a goal. The concept gained support after Discovery’s top stockholder and important cable mogul John Malone remarked in an interview in November that he would “want to see CNN go back to the sort of journalism it started with.”
Since the beginning of the Trump administration, CNN anchors have been more open about their personal thoughts on the air. At Fox News Channel and MSNBC, opportunistic talk is a key element of the economic model.
Licht has been the presenter of a show whose host, Stephen Colbert, has been vehement in his criticism of former President Donald Trump. When Scarborough was hosting “Morning Joe,” he noted that while the host and some of the guests invited on to voice their thoughts did so, Licht did not want reporters to do so.
He described him as a “straight shooter.” “I have no idea if Willie Geist and Chris are Republicans or Democrats — yet they’re both dear friends with whom I’ve worked for 15 years, and Chris for 17.”
Zucker was fired earlier this month after admitting to breaking company regulations by not disclosing his intimate involvement with Allison Gollust, a CNN marketing executive. Later, Gollust left the firm as well.
In the message, Licht, who was not available for an interview, stated that he was aware that CNN employees were interested in learning how the network will alter.
“The truth is that I don’t know,” he said. “David Zaslav has given me one clear directive: to guarantee that CNN maintains its position as the world’s leading news organization.”
According to Licht, he has been “in awe” of CNN’s coverage of the Ukraine conflict.
Jenny Licht, Licht’s wife, worked at CNN for ten years in various capacities, notably as a supervisory producer for Anderson Cooper’s show. In 2010, Licht, whom Zaslav referred to as a “survivor,” published a book on his recovery from a brain hemorrhage.