In a memo to employees on Thursday, Licht wrote that the network has added a “breaking news” guideline to its stylebook, addressing complaints that the banner is overused.
“It has become such a fixture on every channel and network that its impact has become lost on the audience,” Licht said, according to the memo obtained by Deadline (read it below).
Licht added, “We are truth-tellers, focused on informing, not alarming our viewers. You’ve already seen far less of the ‘Breaking News’ banner across our programming. The tenor of our voice holistically has to reflect that. As I have said, we must be vital, relevant, and respected – and how we show up for our audiences, in every story, in every part of the country, and around the world, matters.” Axios first reported on the memo.
Sam Feist, Washington bureau chief and senior vice president at CNN, led the team that put the new guideline together, Licht wrote.
“It certainly will need tweaks, so we are open to feedback, but this is a great starting point to try to make ‘Breaking News’ mean something BIG is happening,” Licht wrote.
Licht also announced the formation of a “guns in America” beat. CNN has devoted extensive coverage to the horrific shootings in Buffalo, NY and Uvalde, TX and the aftermath of the massacres. On Wednesday, CNN carried the jury’s verdict in the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial but broke away from reaction to return to Uvalde. Later in the day, the network turned to coverage of another shooting, in Tulsa, OK.
“In the wake of the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, the role of guns – who buys & sells them, who makes them, and who regulates them are central to understanding all sides of this complex and divisive issue,” Licht wrote. “CNN is uniquely positioned to foster informed policy discussions in this space and help illuminate possible solutions to America’s epidemic of gun violence.”
Licht, who officially started at the network on May 2, has signalled that he wants the network to return to traditional journalism over opinion. The network became a target of the right during Donald Trump’s first presidential campaign and then during his administration.
In his memo, Licht also announced that CNN would be the broadcast partner for Juneteenth: A Global Celebration for Freedom, set to air on June 19. The special will be produced by Live Nation Urban and Jesse Collins Entertainment.
Here is Licht’s memo:
Yesterday was the company’s 42nd anniversary and today marks 30 days since my official start at CNN. I remain deeply humbled to be leading this great organization into its 43rd year while we tackle some of the most consequential news stories of our time. From the ongoing war in Ukraine, the horrific mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde to Roe v. Wade, our Trevor Reed exclusive, and the network’s premiere of “Navalny”, I hope all of you are as proud of CNN’s journalism as I am.
Over the past four weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to meet hundreds of you in person and virtually. I look forward to more in the coming days and weeks as I travel to Atlanta, London, Los Angeles, and back to Washington this month. Our conversations have provided invaluable insight into the company and the issues on your minds. Thank you for your honesty and transparency – it’s crucial to our success.
One recurring theme: filling open positions. Please know my leadership team is very focused on identifying critical roles and working to put the right people in them. This process is days from being complete and managers will be able to act soon after.
I want to make sure you all know about an important organizational change. With the departure of Meredith Artley, we shared last week that Marcus Mabry is now the interim leader of that part of the Digital operation. Marcus is a formidable leader and journalist – this appointment is a tribute to both his track record and the unmatched success of CNN.com, the #1 digital news destination. I want to assure you all that maintaining our digital domination is a key priority. We are focused on increasing engagement by investing in technology that reflects the incredible work done by our editorial, video, audio, programming, and product teams.
On the editorial front, I am excited to announce the creation of a new beat – Guns in America. In the wake of the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, the role of guns – who buys & sells them, who makes them, and who regulates them are central to understanding all sides of this complex and divisive issue. CNN is uniquely positioned to foster informed policy discussions in this space and help illuminate possible solutions to America’s epidemic of gun violence. More details to come soon on this unit.
Something I have heard from people both inside and outside the organization is complaints we overuse the “Breaking News” banner. I agree. It has become such a fixture on every channel and network that its impact has become lost on the audience. Starting today, CNN has added a “Breaking News” guideline to our stylebook. A special thank you to Sam Feist, who led the team that put the guideline together. It certainly will need tweaks, so we are open to feedback, but this is a great starting point to try to make “Breaking News” mean something BIG is happening.
We are truth-tellers, focused on informing, not alarming our viewers. You’ve already seen far less of the “Breaking News” banner across our programming. The tenor of our voice holistically has to reflect that. As I have said, we must be vital, relevant, and respected – and how we show up for our audiences, in every story, in every part of the country, and around the world, matters.
I have gotten many questions about leadership structure going forward. You heard me say in my first town hall that I am going to make decisions slower than some would like. I know this organization has been through tremendous change over the last four months, which is why I am approaching this process slowly and thoughtfully as we look at all parts of the operation. We will realign where it makes sense to best serve our people and the business.
I want to assure everyone that we are continuing to work on the programming priorities I highlighted in our CNN Upfront presentation. As soon as we have updates to share, we will.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is top of mind for many of you as well. Let me be clear – DEI is core to our success. It is essential we continue to weave it into everything we do. On that note, I want to update you on some important CNN initiatives:
The News Associates program – our flagship early career initiative will expand from Washington to Atlanta & New York in the coming months.
Our successful mentorship program, LIFT (Leaders Impact the Future of Talent) has just kicked off its second year. It provides development and exposure opportunities to People of Color and women in News, Sports, and Studios.
Externally, I’m happy to share that CNN Films has just expanded our support of the Points North Institute. Since 2015, our collaboration has brought to life 35 documentary film projects, nurturing a new generation of filmmakers, many of whom are from underrepresented groups.
This fall, for the third year running, we will offer our annual Docuseries Intensive with Film Independent, designed to help filmmakers develop and present their nonfiction series to potential collaborators.
And this morning we are announcing that CNN is the exclusive broadcast partner of “Juneteenth: A Global Celebration for Freedom”, produced by Live Nation Urban and Jesse Collins Entertainment on Sunday, June 19 at 8P ET. We are proud to be able to partner on this first global celebration of Juneteenth since it became a federal holiday in the United States. You’ll be hearing more about this in the coming weeks.
I’m sure you have questions about what I’ve outlined above and more – and I look forward to sharing more with all of you in my next global town hall on Thursday, June 16 in Atlanta. I hope to see many of you there and am eager to hear what’s on everyone’s minds. More details on that will come in the days ahead, but in the meantime, please keep reaching out – I genuinely appreciate hearing from you when in-person conversations are not possible.
Yesterday marked a milestone that we should all be deeply proud of. There is a reason we are the source people turn to at key moments – it’s because of you, and the passion and tenacity you bring to work every day. That passion can be exhausting and mentally draining after weeks like the ones we have just walked through – so please be sure take care of yourselves and each other. Take the time you need with friends and family, step away from your screens, and take a break when you can. And thank you for bringing your best to work every day.