Who’s in Line for CNN’s Top Job?

From The Poynter Report with Tom Jones:

Add another Brit to the list of those who could be the next big boss at CNN.

A week after Semafor’s Ben Smith reported that Mark Thompson, the former chief executive at both The New York Times and the BBC, was being considered to take over CNN, Semafor’s Max Tani is reporting that we can add another name to the list of possibilities.

Tani writes that CNN’s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, also has talked to James Harding, who oversaw BBC News from 2013 to 2017. He then founded the British digital media outlet Tortoise.

Tani writes, “The news of an imminent appointment has come as a surprise inside CNN, where many staffers expected the current, three-person interim leadership to last until the 2024 U.S. election.”

Puck’s Dylan Byers reported late last week that Warner Bros. Discover CEO David Zaslav has made up his mind and is trying to convince Thompson to take the job.

Still, there is no definitive timetable for finding a permanent replacement for Chris Licht, who was fired in June after just a year in the job.

Tani noted, “The challenges that the next leader of CNN will inherit have been in full view over the past several weeks as the streaming television business convulsed and the network lost market share to MSNBC amid the rolling indictments of former President Donald Trump. While CNN previously competed with MSNBC on big Trump-related breaking news days, the liberal network has begun to pull away significantly on these days: MSNBC was number one the night of Trump’s arrest in Georgia, while Rachel Maddow’s Hillary Clinton interview on the night of Trump’s indictment in Georgia drew nearly 4 million viewers. By contrast, CNN has barely broken one million viewers in certain primetime hours, a far cry from the network’s primetime ratings during the first years of the Trump administration.”

While MSNBC’s programming has grown stronger and stronger, and its coverage of late has been excellent, CNN has stepped up its game in recent weeks, too.

Kaitlan Collins has been a bright spot in prime time, showing that the valuable 9 p.m. Eastern slot is not too big for her. Recent coverage of the Trump indictments and the Republican presidential debate was thorough, fair and interesting — particularly when Anderson Cooper was running things.

And whenever there was breaking news — such as the recent plane crash that killed Russian Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner private military company — CNN remains a go-to source. The network has always been at its best during major breaking news stories, especially international stories. That hasn’t changed even as CNN has stumbled in the ratings. The journalism remains strong.

This isn’t to say CNN doesn’t have issues. It does. The ratings prove that. But it also isn’t starting from scratch either. There’s a lot to build on in the post-Licht era and that’s what the new leader will be walking into, too.

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