CNN’s newsroom is in the midst of a morale crisis as top boss Chris Licht leads a cost-cutting overhaul at the network, according to a report.
Some employees have complained about a “crisis of communication” at CNN under Licht’s leadership, with workers learning of major changes or announcements with little or no notice from upper management before they surface in the press, the Daily Beast’s Confider newsletter reported.
The latest instance involved longtime CNN journalist Jim Sciutto, who is expected to return to the air after going on personal leave following a mysterious incident in Amsterdam. CNN employees are reportedly “pissed” that Sciutto is regaining his on-air position even as the network braces for a round of layoffs.
“Morale is at an all-time low,” sources told the Daily Beast late Monday. “It’s worse than it has ever been.”
Sciutto faced an internal investigation at CNN after he purportedly suffered a “serious fall” during a stop in Amsterdam. The incident occurred after Sciutto and an unnamed producer stopped in Amsterdam on the way home from a reporting trip to cover the war in Ukraine, though other colleagues who made the trip took direct flights home from Poland.
The Daily Beast reported that Sciutto’s executive producer and other staffers learned about his looming return only after reading CNN’s “Reliable Sources” media newsletter, rather than through direct communication from Licht and other top brass.
The sources also vented their frustration that the New York Times reported on CNN’s plans to dial back its investment in original programming and documentaries before they heard directly from Licht. The Times’ report was published “several minutes before” Licht’s memo explaining the move arrived in employee inboxes.
Frustration among CNN employees emerged as Licht and WarnerBros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav overhaul the network with a focus on nonpartisan news coverage. CNN’s parent company is also in the process of shedding $3 billion in expenses across its various business segments.
In a memo to staffers last week, Licht warned that the network’s reshuffling “will accelerate” by the end of the year, raising staff anxiety about looming layoffs.
“There is widespread concern over the global economic outlook, and we must factor that risk into our long-term planning,” Licht wrote in a memo obtained by the Hollywood Reporter. “All this together will mean noticeable change to this organization. That, by definition, is unsettling. These changes will not be easy because they will affect people, budgets, and projects.”