January 29, 2023

BALANCING ACT: CNN’s latest layoffs seem more Orwellian than centrist

BALANCING ACT: CNN's latest layoffs seem more Orwellian than centrist

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CNN head Chris Licht has informed staff of impending layoffs “as part of a recalibrated reporting strategy.”

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The move comes following the merger between CNN’s parent company, WarnerMedia, and the Discovery network, which has created both a mega-corp and billions of dollars of debt.

CNN maintains that the network itself still generates “profits in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The memo sent by Licht is almost surreal in its insincere sincerity, truly sounding like something crafted by Bill Lumbergh from the 1999 film Office Space.

“Our people are the heart and soul of this organization,” it begins, as Licht proceeds to inform staff that many of them will be sent packing.

Licht continues: “Today we will notify a limited number of individuals, largely some of our paid contributors, as part of a recalibrated reporting strategy.”

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If you’re re-reading the above sentence wondering where the rest of it is, you’re not seeing a typo – that’s how Licht wrote it – in Lumbergh-like fashion – not actually adding the words “that they will no longer be with the network.”

As for the line “part of a recalibrated reporting strategy” – it’s so Orwellian that George Orwell himself would be impressed.

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That “recalibration” involves the network’s effort to become more “centrist” under Warner Bros. Discovery, a goal of WBD CEO David Zaslav.

It’s feared that Zaslav’s efforts may be reflecting the wishes of John Malone, a conservative billionaire who serves on WBD’s board.

Earlier this year, CNN fired some of its more liberal journalists, including Brian Stelter and John Harwood, who evidently did not fit with the company’s new “vision,” one might say.

Licht’s treatment of liberals at the network has gone something like this:

Critics have pointed out that CNN seems to be buying into “both-sidesism,” and the misguided notion that truth somehow is always the central point between two opposing beliefs.

The network is clearly trying to attract more Republican viewers.

After taking over, Licht even made sure to go to Capitol Hill directly to assure GOP politicos that the network would avoid any “alarmist” news reporting.

Translation: We’ll tone down the terrible things you’re doing.

Asked about the transition to more “centrism” by Stephen Colbert on Tuesday night, host Don Lemon defended Licht, saying that “I think what Chris is saying is that he wants Republicans, sensible Republicans. He wants us to hold people to account, but he wants people to come on and feel comfortable with coming on and talking on CNN and appearing on CNN.”

Right.

Because we wouldn’t want people who try to disenfranchise people and overturn elections to feel uncomfortable in any way.

And the sensible Republicans left the party a long time ago, Don.

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Licht ended his memo by telling all staff – the laid-off and the remaining – that they “have resources designed to support” them if they’re having difficulty adjusting to the change.

What about the rest of us, Chris?

Can you help us adjust to the “balance” you’re going to provide between the truth and whatever the Republicans make up out their asses?

Help Ross go after all the lying %#$&*! [insert your own expletive] by joining him on Twitter! @RossRosenfeld

Ross Rosenfeld

is a news analysis and opinion writer whose work has also appeared in the New York Daily News and Newsweek. He lives in New York.

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