CNN director’s dramatic downfall follows unrealistic expectations, says media expert
In German, “licht” means “light.” CNN CEO Chris Licht’s light has gone out with his resignation, ending his chaotic time in the cable news network’s top job after a mere 13 months. The resignation follows on the heels of devastating behind-the-scenes coverage and revelations that Licht had lost the support of staff and colleagues.
“It sure is an interesting turn of events,” said Virginia Tech media expert Megan Duncan. “When Licht started, his public statements indicated that he thought CNN could grab a bigger audience if the network positioned itself more to the political right. Some of his first and biggest moves reflected that belief. Audiences, however, never followed.”
“Licht set a challenge for himself that could well be insurmountable,” Duncan said. “Partisan news audiences have well-established images of the political ideology of major news brands. My research has shown the changing the news logo on a story affects how fair or biased a political partisan thinks the news story is — even when the content is the same. Changing those perceptions would be a massive task.”
“The results Licht wanted were never going to be achieved through a quick fix,” Duncan said. “Ultimately, I hope the industry learns from this chapter in CNN’s history that chasing the truth is the best long term strategy for success in journalism.”
Megan Duncan is an assistant professor in the School of Communication at Virginia Tech. Her research focuses on how partisans judge the credibility of and engage with the news. Using survey-embedded experiments, surveys, and other quantitative methods, she’s interested in knowing more about audiences, their perceptions of the news, how they form opinions, and how to use this knowledge to make democracy stronger.
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