Another Departure Raises More Question About CNN

From The Poynter Report with Tom Jones:

It seems pretty clear now: There’s something going on at CNN.

When media reporter Brian Stelter was recently pushed out the door as his show, “Reliable Sources,” was canceled, it raised eyebrows and sparked questions about CNN’s editorial move to the center.

But it was just one move.

Now comes another that makes the shift seem even more obvious. Since my newsletter last published, another notable CNN on-air personality is out. John Harwood, the veteran White House correspondent and one of the more respected reporters on the network, left CNN on Friday. And it was abrupt. He was on the air Friday morning and then at noon, he tweeted that it was his last day at CNN. He said he was proud of his work. He thanked his colleagues and wrote, “look forward to figuring out what’s next.”

That doesn’t sound like someone whose departure was long in the works. Neither did CNN’s rather chilly statement: “We appreciate John’s work covering the White House, and we wish him all the best.”

So it would seem as if Harwood was shoved out the door, just like Stelter. Also like Stelter, Harwood, who joined CNN in January 2020, had lots of time left on his contract.

The Washington Post’s Jeremy Barr wrote, “Several current and former CNN employees who spoke with The Washington Post — most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly — are interpreting the sudden exodus as evidence that (Chris) Licht, who joined the network as chairman and CEO in May, is starting his tenure by casting out voices that had often been critical of former president Donald Trump and his allies, in an effort to present a new, more ideologically neutral CNN. That aligns with a vision repeatedly expressed by David Zaslav, the chief executive of Warner Bros. Discovery.”

One unnamed CNN journalist told Barr, “People are freaked out. It almost feels like there’s a pattern. Is there a purge going on? They seem to be sending a message: ‘Watch what you say. Watch what you do.’”

Harwood’s departure from CNN came shortly after his final on-air report in which he mentioned President Joe Biden’s speech that occurred the night before. In the speech, Biden called out Trump and his MAGA supporters as being a threat to America. In his report, Harwood called Trump a “dishonest demagogue” and said the “core point” of Biden’s speech was “true.”

Harwood said, “Now that is something that is not easy for us as journalists to say. We are brought up to believe there’s two different political parties with different points of view and we don’t take sides in honest disagreements between them. But that’s not what we’re talking about. These are not honest disagreements.”

Not long after he said that, Harwood was out.

Since then, “Boycott CNN” started trending on Twitter. That was also in part because of something CNN anchor Brianna Keilar said on Twitter. Talking about Biden’s speech, and two Marines standing behind Biden during the address, Keilar tweeted, “Whatever you think of this speech the military is supposed to be apolitical. Positioning Marines in uniform behind President Biden for a political speech flies in the face of that. It’s wrong when Democrats do it. It’s wrong when Republicans do it.”

CNN then did stories about it, including Keilar saying there were many who saw the image as problematic. Keilar was not alone in having an issue with Biden speaking in front of two Marines, but it does seem kind of a tad disingenuous for a journalist to raise an issue about something and then do a story saying there are those raising an issue about that thing.

While Twitter is not necessarily real life, one can’t help but notice that CNN viewers are growing frustrated with some of these recent developments. It would behoove Licht to get out ahead of this and explain what CNN is doing and where it is going.

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