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CNN Shakeup Continues, but Is There Reason for Skepticism?

Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Has the great purge begun at CNN? With the firing of former media activist Brian Stelter and the canceling of “Reliable Sources,” the network’s longest-running show, it appears change is a-coming.

Or is it?

Chris Licht, the company’s new CEO, came into his position vowing to return the network back to its journalistic roots and intimated that staff changes were in the offing. He promised he would scale back the hyperpartisanship that has dominated the network since former President Donald Trump came onto the political scene. Now, it seems he is making good on that promise, and there are indications that Stelter is not the last to be on the chopping block.

News Cycle Media president John Nicosia posted a tweet indicating we can expect to see more of CNN’s personalities exit the company. He brought up the names of various media activists at the network and intimated that they will be the next to be given the boot:

Source: Once the coming shakeup at @CNN is done, don’t expect John Berman, Alisyn Camerota, Jim Acosta, Brianna Keilar, Jake Tapper, John King, and Don Lemon to still be at the network OR have their current show assignments.”

Licht informed staffers at a recent town hall meeting that while there will not be mandatory layoffs, the company’s leadership will continue culling the herd, so to speak. “There will be moves you may not agree with or understand,” he said, adding: “I want to acknowledge to everyone that this is a time of change. I know that it is unsettling.”

The CEO said the leadership is examining the entire operation and determining whether its resources were being used effectively.

CNN employees are reportedly feeling the pressure. “No one is safe or secure right now,” a CNN staffer told Deadline.

When Warner Bros. Discovery was going through its merger, John Malone, a prime investor, told CNBC that he and others planned to have CNN “evolve back to the kind of journalism that it started with, and actually have journalists.”

A network insider told The Wrap that Licht is intent on making CNN less partisan. “It’s not a good brand position to be the opposite of Fox News,” they said. “He wants to be tough and no bulls—, but not affiliated with a side. It’s fair to say he doesn’t like the CNN vs. Fox thing.”

Stelter was a prime example of the type of hyperpartisanship that Malone and Licht are seeking to leave behind. While his show was intended to analyze the press, the media activist frequently engaged in back-and-forth barbs with Fox News personalities and other conservative commentators.

But Stelter was not the only one. Don Lemon, Briana Keilar, Jim Acosta, and others have been at the forefront of CNN’s position as a propaganda mill for the Democratic Party. It is not likely that the network can go back to being a journalistic outlet with folks like these remaining in their positions.

But even if Licht removes these individuals, with whom will he replace them? CNN has had a very distinct bias during the Trump years, and it is not only the on-air personalities that have shaped this trend. The leadership might have to fire more people than they think – there are still plenty who wish to keep functioning as the propaganda arm of the Democratic Party.

Moreover, what if this move is just intended to give the appearance that it is less biased when the network is really going to continue as they have been? So far, it seems Licht is sincere in his desire to make CNN journalistic again. But ultimately, his actions will speak louder than his words, so it makes sense to take a wait-and-see approach.

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