CNN Shines During a Weekend of Russia Coverage

From The Poynter Report With Tom Jones:

CNN is at a crossroads these days.

Former boss Chris Licht, brought in to lift a ship with sinking ratings, was recently fired for failing to do the one thing that was critical for him to do: reset and revitalize the network. But through a series of missteps and arrogant leadership, he left the network in much worse condition than he found it.

Licht’s attempt to drag CNN into becoming a more centrist network not only turned off its most dedicated viewers, but it offended a staff of good journalists who already were doing admirable work.

Reports are that most of the staff at CNN is relieved that Licht is gone and now the network can get back to doing what it does best: report the news. Much of that, however, depends on what is going on in the news. And CNN always thrives when there is major breaking news: weather disasters, wars and former presidents being indicted.

So that’s why it was no surprise just how impactful the network was over the weekend with its coverage of the events in Russia, where there appeared to be an insurrection.

Veteran media columnist Margaret Sullivan tweeted Saturday, “This is what @cnn is good at.”

It brought in its elite talent, including Christiane Amanpour, to anchor special coverage over the weekend. Its range of analysts and expert commentators was far and wide and insightful. CNN’s anchors and the direction of the coverage kept it simple by focusing on two questions: What’s happening and what does it mean?

It was as simple as that. Information, insight. Repeat.

CNN is at its best when there is breaking international news. And it’s at moments like these you realize just how good it is and how important it is.

To be fair, the Russian story wasn’t a sudden shift for CNN. But there has been a noticeable change since Licht left, which happened to coincide with some major news stories.

As Puck’s Dylan Byers tweeted, “If it feels like CNN is trending back toward pre-Licht era, in some ways it is… wall-to-wall coverage of Ukraine, Trump indictment, submersible… graphics reversal (see below)… interim leadership troika of old Zucker deputies who may lead through 2024 election… etc.”

Other coverage from Russia

CNN was hardly alone in outstanding coverage regarding Russia. If you’re a news consumer, you likely wore out the refresh key on your computer looking for updates from The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Associated Press. Here are some of the smart stories I saw over the weekend:

The New York Times’ Anton Troianovski with “Revolt Raises Searing Question: Could Putin Lose Power?”

Also from the Times, Valerie Hopkins with “One Big Winner of Kremlin-Wagner Clash? The Dictator Next Door.”

The Washington Post’s Dalton Bennett with “Scenes from Wagner’s mutiny: Coffee in camo, street sweeping between tanks.”

And I love stories like this from The Washington Post staff: “What just happened in Russia? The Wagner crisis, explained.”

CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh with “Bizarre and chaotic 36 hours in Russia feels like the beginning of the end for Putin.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Benoit Faucon, Joe Parkinson and Thomas Grove with “Why Wagner Chief Prigozhin Turned Against Putin.”

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