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Friday, July 27, 2012

Jim Walton Leaving CNN in December

Jim Walton's letter explaining his decision to step down from his position as head of CNN Worldwide:

After more than 30 years at this company and nearly 10 years as the leader of this great news organization, I have decided to leave my role at CNN on December 31, 2012.

For some time, I’ve been talking with Phil Kent about wanting to make a change, and he supports my decision. I’ve told Phil that I will cooperate with any transition timeline that he and Time Warner want to implement. Phil requested that I work out the year and be available after that if needed, which I’ve agreed to do.

I am proud of what we have accomplished together over these last 10 years – innovative programming, the development of great talent in front of and behind the cameras, expansion in digital and mobile, significant investment and expansion in international coverage, financial success and, most importantly, great and trusted journalism. Thank you for the role you have played in our successes.

CNN needs new thinking. That starts with a new leader who brings a different perspective, different experiences and a new plan, one who will build on our great foundation and will commit to seeing it through. And I’m ready for a change. I have interests to explore and I want to give myself time to do it.

The next few months will be filled with election news and other important events that will require all of our focus to report the news with the quality and expertise the world expects of CNN. I look forward to working alongside each of you, as I have over the past 30-plus years, to do just that.


Turner Broadcasting's Chairman Phil Kent's statement:

“Jim is the leader we all aspire to be: Smart and steady, tough and fair, business-savvy and respected by his team, and with a track record of great judgment when it matters most. His vision has modernized and globalized our legacy news brand, enhanced CNN’s journalistic standing, positioned it at the forefront of multi-platform branded news content and challenged the organization to think bigger, reach further and do better. I am honored to work alongside him and proud to call him my friend.

Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes's statement:

When Jim Walton assumed the presidency of CNN in 2003, it was underperforming and earnings were in serious decline. Since then, he and CNN have tripled earnings, doubled margin and delivered annual growth of 15 percent. In his nearly 31 years of uninterrupted and distinguished service to CNN, Jim has been instrumental in growing the business into the financial powerhouse it has become, while establishing the brand as the worldwide leader for television news. I respect him personally and professionally and support the decision he and Phil Kent have reached.

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Anonymous said...

CNN was "underperforming" in 2003?
It seems to me everyone was watching CNN on 9/11. It was the only station many tuned for for days at a time.
It was the place to be.
NOW it is underperforming and Jim Walton is leaving because of this underperformance.
As always, commenters MUST read between the lines and lies and come to their own conclusion.
Yes, in the coming months the election season is upon us, and Jim Walton will no longer be at the misguided helm running down CNN.

Anonymous said...

It's about time. CNN has been a disaster in terms of it's news gathering. Overseas operations has been cut down the bone, and good old fashioned reporting replaced for commercials for such lovely governments as Nigeria and Ukraine.

Next on the chopping block is Parisa Khosravi (aka Cruella DeVille).... which will result in reporters around the globe cheering !! She is single handily responsible for helping perpetuate a negative culture with CNN.

Anonymous said...

@1.16 am interesting comment, I actually never knew Parisa has that kind of a reputation within CNN. But what about Tony Maddox? Didn't he come up with the idea of getting rid of AP and Reuters (I know, Reuters is back, but it doesn't look like a full service) which is now often the reason CNN simply ignores many important international stories, because there aren't any pictures available? Since his influence started expanding, I always had in mind he's chasing Walton's position in the future. Am I correct or he doesn't have a chance with Kent and Bewkes?

Oh, and you're right about the overseas operations cuts, CNN International has turned into an infomercial machine in the past few years and that's where the money is coming from. Many people in the US don't realize this because they can't access CNNI. I mean, there is still more real news on CNNI than on CNN Domestic, but way less than only a few years ago, not to mention the ridiculous focus on sports and business and the annoying appointment-to-view policy with all the wrong personalities. And they always brag about those 30 bureaux across the globe, yet many of them have not had a permanent correspondent for quite some time (Amman, Baghdad, Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Dubai, Jakarta, Mexico City, Rome and Santiago plus Jerusalem and Tokyo correspondents have left their posts more recently as well).

Anonymous said...

I only wish he would leave sooner. CNN really needs fresh thinking for the election coverage. CNN/US is a mess - now Anderson is going to do his daytime show live?! CNN's flagship primetime show is just a part-time gig for the anchor? The lead-in is part-time wall street shill and part-time starlet who plays news anchor on tv. All this wrapped around the loudmouth Brit who occasionally gets good guests but ruins it by spending time telling us what he thinks. Who the heck is going to lead election coverage? They dumped John King's show and put him on a shelf, Anderson is too busy, Erin is too incapable, Piers is well Piers (keep him away from politics), so that leaves Wolf who is already on 3 hours a day! Let's just call it BNN - blitzer news network. I would love to see Candy Crowley do more but they never put her in primetime which is a shame. Soledad is the most capable but she tends to be a lightning rod on political issues and they are still trying to make her a morning show person (she's not). What a mess. I'd kick Walton out the door immediately.

Anonymous said...

When will Phil Kent fire Ken Jautz for turning CNN
into pundit central ? CNN spends way too much time
with opinions from pundits too full of themselves.
What does that have to do with viewers ? When will
Out Front . Starting Point and PMT be canceled ?
I hope CNN brings in someone with a really really
strong news background who is smart enough to
find CNN's David Rhodes. Also an innovator who had
fresh ideals to revolutionize cable news. I find myself
tuning into cable news less and less. I catch up on the
news with Evening Express.

Anonymous said...

I cheered loudly when I read Jim Walton was leaving. Ken Jautz and Mark Whitaker need to start collecting boxes and slowly packing too.
It would behoove Time Warner to remove the culprits that turned CNN into a lightweight news operation.
The viewers will not return and "remain" unless there is a major shake-up and major changes in the programming. No slight modifications will do simply because there are far too many alternatives now.

Anonymous said...

@9:45AM: In case you haven't noticed the flagship program 360 is no longer the flagship program.
CNN no longer leads in Breaking News and the gig is Anderson's dayshow which will most likely be canceled anyway after this next season.
Get Real. CNN no longer has any show that gets over 500 thousand CONSISTANTLY.
And according to the NYT, CNN's primetime ratings on an average were, please be seated, are 144,000.

Anonymous said...

This past Friday, according to TVN,
360 at 10PM got 251,000 viewers.
Flagship program??

Anonymous said...

Amman is no longer a bureau. It was always more of a staging post for Baghdad.

And Baghdad is gone - just a producer with a phone and a laptop.

Jakarta and Bangkok also closed.

Buenos Aires is a freelancer.

Mexico has CNN-E, but no one posted there.

Dubai is home to for the web - but no bureau. Just website staff. Abu Dhabi down the road is now the hub.

Rome is empty.

Jerusalem is empty - and almost all of the staff (editor, producers, camera people) fired. Unclear if it will be filled, or people just flown in from London.

Same with Tokyo - that bureau is ideal for downsizing and no reporter replacement for Kyung Lah.

Santiago is not a bureau. There is a local CNN Chile (like CNN Turk and CNN-IBN India) but they have very little to do with the mothership.

So CNN International has been slashed to the bone --- meanwhile Atlanta has expanded with bosses, and more bosses, and even more bosses. No one can make a decision.

And, it obviously shows on air.

Time to clean houses, get rid of the executives with high 6 figure (and even 7 figure) salaries.

How many more stories do you think CNN could cover if the network got rid of a Senior Vice President on a $750,000 or $1.2 million dollar annual salary?

Wars in Congo & Mali, drug smuggling in Russia, violence in Guatemala etc etc

All stories shot down recently for 'lack of a budget' - meanwhile there are more and more fat cat managers sitting in Atlanta doing nothing more than going to meetings, checking Facebook and Googling.

Anonymous said...

We all agree the ratings for AC360 are bad. Flagship is not defined by ratings success. When 2 out of 3 primetime hours is AC360, that pretty well defines it as the flagship show. It is also one of the highest rated programs on CNN. I know, that's not an impressive feat. The question is now, should it remain the flagship show or does CNN need to move on? I think @8:02PM is reinforcing the point made by @9:45AM. CNN domestic primetime is a mess.

Anonymous said...

@2.35am Thanks for explaining the situation with bureaux. And it really does show on air. Once you would have several correspondents filing reports from different regions, nowadays they're mostly doing standups in their bureau. It's also frustrating to see people like Nic Robertson or Matthew Chance seated in London studio just analyzing and explaining the news instead of reporting it.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but the point I wish to make is, if you believe CNN primetime is a mess, that includes 360, and just because it repeats at 10 doesn't make it superior if they're all equally bad, and they are.
It's all relative in how you define
"a mess."

Anonymous said...


Yes - the news gathering is a mess at the moment.

That's why in my opinion Jim Walton's replacement needs to do a clean sweep - Whitaker, Jautz, Maddox, Khosravi, Lee and the horrible convoluted desk situation. Get 'em all out.

Slash the management to the bone, and use the millions of dollars in savings in executive salaries to finance news gathering so that Robertson, Chance etc can actually leave London and get out from behind the desk.

Will it be done? Probably not. Executives like to protect other executives and their collective golden parachutes.

With Moody back, I wouldn't be surprised if Clemente jumps ship to CNN.

Let's face it - unless a real game changer like David Rhodes comes to CNN - nothing will be different a year from now.

The existing management have promoted a bureaucratic non-journalistic culture that is based on spending money on silly things and not spending money on actually covering the news.

Anonymous said...

As talked about elsewhere on the web (google it) --- with Walton gone, maybe African American anchors can do more than just do weekend shows.

Anonymous said...

Bring back Chris Cramer.

Bring back Jon Klein.

Bring back Nancy Lane.

Anonymous said...

If there is one person who has helped the demise of CNN International it is Tony Maddox. He has put his British old cronies around the globe. He survives because he has put his boys around everywhere and nobody talks about him. But he morally has very low values and has gotten rid of the best people at CNN. Most people I have spoken to at CNN say that. But for him to go CNN will have to make a lot of changes because all his British boys will have to go.

Anonymous said...

Bring back Jon Klein???
Are you kidding me?
He's one of the ones that messed up the entire CNN brand.
He was the source of the problem.
He let Eliot Spitzer go, even though he will return as a political entity, bigger and better than ever.
And he single handedly made anderson Cooper the ONLY talent to be revered on the entire network.
Every show had Cooper's footprints on it. Every intro from Wolf Blitzer to Kyra Philips and back again had to hear Cooper.
So now the entire channel is leaning on someone who wants to be somewhere else or someone else.
Bring back Jon Klein?
Are you kidding me?
Good riddens to bad garbage.

Anonymous said...

Getting rid of Maddox would be a very good move ... but he is a shrewd player.

It can be argued that he has let CNN slip, so that he can get Walton's job ---- essentially letting Walton have enough rope to hang himself.

Walton, Parisa Khosravi and Ellana Lee all need to go. None of them have any experience actually doing news. They are just suits.

A big problem with Ford and GM in Detroit started when those at the top offices couldn't change a spark plug - no real life experience.

Good parallel with CNN!.

Anonymous said...

Bring back Jon Klein is a joke.

But Eason Jordan wasn't that bad in retrospect.

Anonymous said...

Not sure where you get that Parisa Khosravi is an empty suit that needs to go. She is actually a real journalist who cares about news...and has integrity. Hard to find in this day and age at the top.

Anonymous said...

@5:12 PM

The glowing comment about Parisa is obviously written by one of her international desk staff who has benefited from the crony system.

Do a poll of CNN reporters - 99% smile to her face and grumble behind her back.

And check the facts --- the number of international stories CNN has screwed up such has not having anyone in Baghdad for the US troop withdrawal. Or the Gaza flotilla etc etc etc

Anonymous said...

hmmm....i have to say that Parisa Khosravi is not the problem. She is not perfect, no one is. She has flaws too. But she is one of the few pushing for real, credible journalism to survive amidst the informercial advertisements masquerading as news. Be careful what you wish for-get rid of her and the freeway will be clear for those in the new British world order money making machine to steamroll over any ethics left at CNN and thats a fact. As for the reporters grumbling -ask them why the grumble--its because she is cheap and cautious-two things that reporters rail against because they don't like anyone contraining them--ever. But it is not because they think her evil or incompetent-she merely doesn't give them free reign or blank checks.

Anonymous said...

So the strategy is not to spend money covering stories and stop reporters from doing their jobs ??

And how is that working out ratings wise ??

The perfect example is Iraq. After years and millions of dollars spent on the Baghdad bureau -- the decision of a certain senior VP resulted in CNN having NO ONE cover the final US troop withdrawal.

NBC, Fox etc were all live riding with the troops on the way to Kuwait - and CNN was nowhere.

That's why reporters grumble. Thank God there will be a fresh start and a clean sweep soon.