CNN, under its new boss Chris Licht, is cutting back on what had become a source of annoyance for CNN viewers—the use of the “Breaking News” banner and voice-over coming off every commercial break. As was pointed out on this site and elsewhere, news doesn’t break every time a station goes to commercials. In a memo to staff Licht wrote:
“Something I have heard from people both inside and outside the organization is complaints we overuse the “Breaking News” banner. I agree. It has become such a fixture on every channel and network that its impact has become lost on the audience. Starting today, CNN has added a “Breaking News” guideline to our stylebook. A special thank you to Sam Feist, who led the team that put the guideline together. It certainly will need tweaks, so we are open to feedback, but this is a great starting point to try to make “Breaking News” mean something BIG is happening.
We are truth-tellers, focused on informing, not alarming our viewers. You’ve already seen far less of the “Breaking News” banner across our programming. The tenor of our voice holistically has to reflect that. As I have said, we must be vital, relevant, and respected – and how we show up for our audiences, in every story, in every part of the country, and around the world, matters.”
Licht has an impressive background in the news, having graduated from the Newshouse School of public communication at Syracuse. He is best known as the producer of the Stephen Colbert Show, but he has a strong grounding in broadcast journalism. He headed the CBS Morning show, and significantly improved its ratings and winning Peabody and Emmy Awards.
He took over CNN in late February after Jeff Zucker resigned for not disclosing a relationship with a co-worker. Licht’s arrival coincided with the beginning of the Ukraine war, and almost immediately there was a shift in the tone of the news coverage to a more fact based journalism. CNN had earned criticism during the Trump years for becoming over partisan. On his first day as chairman and CEO of CNN, Licht sent a memo to all employees saying, “Sadly too many people have lost trust in the news media. I think we can be a beacon in regaining that trust by being an organization that exemplifies the best characteristics in journalism: fearlessly speaking truth to power, challenging the status quo, questioning ‘group-think’ and educating viewers and readers with straightforward facts and insightful commentary, while always being respectful of differing viewpoints. First and foremost, we should, and we will be advocates for truth.”
Joe Scarborough, whose Morning Joe show was co-founded with Licht predicts CNN will move away from opinion in prime time and more towards hard news. That was the type of approach that CNN founder Ted Turner had envisioned when he founded the network more than four decades ago.