February 4, 2023

That Feeling of going into Thursday The layoffs at CNN and Gannett were going to be bad.

Unfortunately, that feeling turned out to be true.

We’ll get to Gannett in a minute, but let’s start with CNN.

Ted Johnson of Deadline wrote that “a few hundred” employees were affected. The list of those fired includes political analyst Chris Cillizza, moderator/correspondent Martin Savidge and HLN’s Robin Meade.

In a memo to employees Thursday (posted to Twitter by CNN’s Oliver Darcy), CNN executive director Chris Licht, wrote, “At the highest level, the goal is to deploy our resources to best serve and grow audiences for our core news programs and products. To achieve these goals, we will reduce vacancies, redesign our workflows, and align our staffing, investments and focus on three key strategic priorities: programming, news gathering and digital. All decisions are aimed at strengthening the core of our business.”

HLN, formerly known as Headline News, takes a big hit in this round of cuts. The live original program ends on the channel from December 6th. CNN will simulcast its new “CNN This Morning” on HLN. Licht wrote of Meade, “I would like to take a moment to thank Robin Meade – not only is she an exceptionally popular anchor, but also one of the longest-running morning anchors in history. I know HLN audiences will miss her and the other HLN talents.”

As I mentioned above, Cillizza was one of the higher profile employees to be fired. He could be a polarizing figure, but I found his work solid. It was productive and thought provoking. In a tweet, he wrote: “My time at CNN was an absolute blast. I deal with smart and committed journalists every day. I’m sad that it’s over but also excited to see what the future holds for me. Stay tuned!”

Another notable cut was Rachel Metz, who tweeted She was CNN’s sole AI reporter and the last remaining digital reporter in San Francisco.

These are just a few of the individual names.

Other changes include restructuring some of his teams and offices at CNN International. The 5:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Eastern broadcast will be replaced by a CNN US simulcast for that half hour.

Referring to CNN en Espanol (CNNE), Licht wrote that the network will seek to “broaden its audience by diversifying the network’s programming beyond news. We will continue to produce news for CNNE and over the next year look to develop a far more robust digital platform for CNNE with the goal of launching it in 2024.”

Speaking of gathering intelligence, Licht wrote: “We are reorganizing some of our divisions and reallocating resources to increase staffing in some units and in more areas across the country. This will help us achieve our goal of broader coverage of the United States. Many of the staff cuts at Newsgathering will be offset by the addition of new roles to best serve our audience across platforms.”

Another step CNN is taking is reducing the number of paid contributors. Licht wrote: “In some areas we will rely more on our CNN journalists. Overall, we will engage contributors who are subject matter experts who will expand and diversify the perspectives we bring to our audiences.”

The cuts at Gannett are just as brutal. My Poynter colleague Angela Fu reports that the layoffs on Thursday and today will total about 200. That would be about 6% of the 3,440 in the news department.

Fu wrote, “Journalists began receiving notifications on Thursday morning. Among those affected were reporters from flagship newspaper USA Today and producers working on Gannett’s digital optimization team.”

Fu added, “Gannett intends to eliminate all of its DOT regions, according to an email the company sent to the Atlantic DOT Guild, the union representing producers on the Atlantic team. Although the teams won’t be disbanded until December 9, Gannett has already begun laying off DOT employees. 50 out of a total of 125 employees were informed on Thursday that their jobs had been cut.”

That’s just the latest bad news at Gannett. As Fu notes, this round of cuts is the third in recent months. In August, Gannett laid off 400 and eliminated 400 vacancies. October saw another round of cuts, including takeovers, a hiring freeze, and suspension of company contributions to employees’ 401(k) accounts. In addition, employees must take one week of unpaid leave over the public holidays.

  • There were some tense moments on the set of “CNN This Morning” Thursday as co-host Don Lemon compared men’s soccer to women’s soccer. Lemon said: “But the men’s team makes more money. If they make more money, then they should get more money. The men’s team makes more money because people care more about the men.” That didn’t sit well with the other two co-hosts – Poppy Harlow and Kaitlin Collins. Here’s more, including video, from The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona.
  • The latest — and arguably the best — from The Washington Post’s “Black Out” series on the lack of black coaches in the NFL: sports columnist Jerry Brewer features “Football is America. We should not be satisfied with either.” Here’s a particularly clever passage from Brewer: “The NFL, like America, has had to change for decades. When forced to do so, the league shuffles in that direction, but it does not succumb to equality. For 103 seasons, minimal effort has served as a sufficient pacifier for a nation of football junkies.”
  • It’s year-end list season. Here’s a good one from James Poniewozik, Mike Hale, and Margaret Lyons of The New York Times: “The Best TV Shows of 2022.”
  • Deborah Netburn of the Los Angeles Times “Strange coincidences: are they coincidences or force majeure?”
  • For The New Yorker, starring Ronan Farrow “Hacked newsroom brings spyware maker to US court.”
  • Will Sommer from The Daily Beast “QAnon Leader accidentally comes out as a groomer.”
  • In a special for the Seattle Times, Chase Hutchinson with “Journalists from near and far are responding to Alaska Daily journalism.”
  • ProPublica’s Jeremy Kohler “St. Louis can ban people from entire neighborhoods. The police can arrest them when they come back.”
  • Whitney Bryen of Oklahoma Watch with “114 Executions and Count: An Oklahoma Priest’s Quest to Uphold the ‘Dignity of Life'”
  • Brittany Shammas with the Washington Post “Parents claim ‘overly punitive’ Stanford discipline led to soccer star’s suicide.”
  • For The Ringer, Michael Tedder writes lovingly of the Fleetwood Mac star, who died this week at the age of 79: “Christine McVie made Fleetwood Mac a pleasure.”
  • And finally one more from The Ringer. It’s holiday season and that means holiday movies. The Ringer claims there will be 169 original Christmas movies to watch this holiday season. So author Jodi Walker watches one every day and will be in touch to see if the film follows the formula. It begins with an introduction: “Introduction to the 25 Days of Bingema.”

Do you have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter Senior Media Writer Tom Jones at [email protected]

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