As U.S. president Jon Klein leaves CNN, what will happen to its non-partisan, news-first attitude?
Talk about burying the news: CNN's press release announcing that longtime U.S. president Jon Klein is leaving doesn't reveal that tidbit until the fifth paragraph.
But it's a blockbuster revelation, coming as the cable channel is about to remake its prime time lineup with controversial choices he orchestrated -- hiring America's Got Talent judge Piers Morgan to succeed Larry King at 9 p.m. and pairing disgraced former New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer with newspaper columnist Kathleen Parker at 8 p.m.
Can't be good news that Klein is leaving CNN before the sauces or failure of either show can be known -- Parker Spitzer debuts Oct. 4, Morgan won't start his show until sometime in early 2011. And Ken Jautz, the head of the CNN sister channel whose prime time ratings often rival the mothership, CNN Headline News, is taking Klein's job.
Since HLN has made its strides on the back of opinionators like Jane Velez-Mitchell, Nancy Grace, Joy Behar and -- once upon a time -- Glenn Beck, that raises an interesting question. What's going to happen to CNN's non-partisan, news-first attitude?
Critics have expected this for years, as CNN's ratings have slid to their worst ever in prime time, regularly losing to more opinionated lineups on MSNBC and Fox News Channel. But it's hard to know what impact this will have now -- the channel is already committed to a Klein-developed strategy in prime time for a while.
CNN Worldwide president Jim Walton has a teleconference scheduled in a half hour. Expect more answers then.
CNN's press release follows:
I have some news to share with you about our executive leadership and how our programming teams are going to work together to ensure we’re prominently featuring CNN’s quality journalism across our multiple platforms. Two accomplished CNN executives whom most of you know and have worked with are stepping up to new roles, effective immediately. A third senior leader will be brought on in the role of managing editor to help leverage our newsgathering resources across multiple platforms in a more collaborative way.
Ken Jautz is moving from HLN to CNN/U.S. to run the network as its executive vice president. Ken is a rarity—a working journalist who is an even better news executive. The reinvention of HLN is the latest in a string of successes he has led at CNN. Ken has launched, made profitable and turned around businesses for our news organization, Turner Broadcasting and Time Warner literally around the world. To his new assignment he brings deep experience as a reporter, both overseas and in the US; a CNN-wide perspective; and relationships from multiple positions within Turner. Most importantly, he has a demonstrated ability to collaborate and lead strong teams, and a track-record of programming successes.
Scot Safon assumes the executive vice president role at HLN and will run the network. Scot and HLN are in my view an inspired combination. He is an innovator; HLN is an ideal news and information laboratory. He is an expert in audience targeting and development; HLN’s audience is young, engaged and growing. And he is a charismatic leader who is passionate about journalism, storytelling and our brand. As Chief Marketing Officer of CNN Worldwide, Scot has led a dynamic team that has done award-winning marketing, advertising and promotion for CNN, HLN, CNN International and CNN.com.
Additionally, to put our multi-platform advantages more fully to work, we will be naming an executive vice president and managing editor of CNN Worldwide to lead collaboration across all platforms and elevate CNN’s unique journalism and analysis. A managing editor, with full access to our journalism resources and my mandate to shape and connect our newsgathering across networks, shows, and websites, is a new role for the organization. Ultimately, the goal is that the kind of front-page reporting and analysis that captures a news event, translates its meaning and shapes the dialogue about the story will continue to emerge in even more prominent and more accessible ways to CNN’s audiences. The search for this person is currently underway.
Our colleague Jon Klein is leaving CNN. Jon’s six years as head of CNN/U.S. are reflected in the quality of our coverage of signal news events during his tenure: the tsunami in South Asia, Hurricane Katrina, the 2008 election cycle and the Haiti earthquake, as well as shows like Anderson Cooper 360, The Situation Room and Fareed Zakaria GPS, all of which bear his imprint. Jon has made important contributions to the CNN story, and he leaves with our respect and friendship, and with my sincere thanks.
We are going into a busy fall and winter with November elections and two new prime time shows on CNN. Ken, Scot and the new managing editor will impact these and all of the other events ahead, as will you. My expectation is that our leaders and our new operating discipline will put CNN’s advantages to work where they matter most: for our audience. Our coverage will be relevant and resonant; will have meaning for millions of people around the world; and it will reflect the qualities that CNN is rightfully famous for: commitment to truth, respect for facts, service to no political agenda and passion for journalism and analysis done right and well.