New CNN CEO Addresses TV Journalism Disruption in Note to Staff: ‘I See Opportunity’

Newly announced CNN CEO Mark Thompson acknowledged that TV journalism is in “peak disruption” in his first note to the staff, but stressed his aim to not only survive but thrive in this new era as he takes the reins of the cable network.

“We face pressure from every direction – structural, political, cultural, you name it,” the former New York Times Company CEO said. “Like many other media organizations, CNN has recently felt some of the uncertainty and heartache that comes with all of that.”

Thompson stressed that, given his experience, he’s keen on not only getting CNN through this particularly rough media patch, but coming out ahead.

“There’s no magic wand that I or anyone else can wield to make this disruption go away,” he continued. “But what I can say is that where others see threat, I see opportunity – especially given CNN’s great brand and the strength of its journalism.”

The new CEO, who formally begins the job on Oct. 9, also said he values collaboration, signaling he doesn’t intend to bark orders. “It won’t be my plan that wins the day but our plan, the plan we devise and implement together.”

Thompson also thanked the interim team who has been running CNN since CEO Chris Licht was fired — Amy Entelis, Virginia Moseley, David Leavy and Eric Sherling — and the quartet released their own memo to staff saying they’re committed to a smooth transition and praising Thompson as “a journalist first and foremost.”

“As an interim leadership team, we remain committed to making this transition period as smooth as possible, and look forward to working with Mark to take this great organization to the next level,” the four said in a statement. “For the last few months our goal has been to remove barriers, refocus on the unparalleled journalism the organization produces every day, and move CNN confidently forward. Thanks again for all that you do to make CNN the most influential news organization in the world.”

Thompson’s hiring comes three months after Licht was fired, and shortly before CNN is due to launch CNN Maxthe cable network’s second stab at entering the streaming world. This time, CNN Max will be integrated into the existing Max app and will focus heavily on news programming instead of expanding into lifestyle. The CNN Max beta launches Sept. 27.


Read Thompson’s full note to staff below.

Dear all,

No doubt you’ve heard the news and read David Zaslav’s message confirming that I’m to be CNN’s next Chairman and CEO. I just wanted to add a few words of my own.

I can’t tell you how pleased and proud I am to be joining you after so many years of watching – and envying – your work from the outside. Over the decades, I’ve bumped into CNN teams on story after story from Washington, DC to Tiananmen Square. Two months ago I spent a day watching CNN’s spell-binding coverage of the Wagner rebellion, and I watched and read our major competitors too. That day confirmed an old truth to me: when it matters most, CNN is the best place to find out what’s happening. You always rise to the occasion.

As everyone knows, TV journalism is approaching peak disruption. We face pressure from every direction – structural, political, cultural, you name it. Like many other media organizations, CNN has recently felt some of the uncertainty and heartache that comes with all of that. There’s no magic wand that I or anyone else can wield to make this disruption go away. But what I can say is that where others see threat, I see opportunity – especially given CNN’s great brand and the strength of its journalism. I’ve spent most of the past twenty years figuring out with colleagues at some of the world’s other great news operations not just how to survive the revolution, but to thrive in it and gain new audiences and revenue streams. I aim to do the same at CNN. It won’t be my plan that wins the day but our plan, the plan we devise and implement together. Which is why, particularly in the early weeks, you’ll find me doing a lot more listening and learning than holding forth.

I want to add my personal thanks to the interim leadership team. Amy, David, Virginia and Eric have done a terrific job steering the ship over the past couple of months and I look forward to working with them.

My first official day in the office is 9 October but I’m planning to pop in a few times before then. So if you see a tall figure with an English accent and a loud laugh, you’ll know who it is.

All the best,

Mark


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