The Year in Media: 7 Cliff-Hangers to Keep You in Suspense as the Ball Drops

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Can Chris Licht Turn CNN Around?

Licht’s confidantes and advisers must have been beaming when James Stewart’s long-awaited New York Times profile landed on December 18, like a warm bundle of holiday cheer. (Licht’s boss, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, gave the piece a hearty plug on Instagram.) After months of rough and relentless coverage that put Licht’s leadership under the lens of a high-power microscope, here was a sympathetic portrait from a titan of the business pages. Nevertheless, it’s too early to tell whether Licht and his lieutenants can continue to flip the narrative. CNN brought the curtain down on 2022 with a painful culling that put hundreds out of work. Annual profits, as Stewart noted, have fallen by $500 million. The network’s big streaming plans imploded. Its ratings leave a lump in the throat. All of which suggests that Licht has his work cut out for him. His to-do list in the New Year includes locking in a prime-time lineup that has a fighting chance of narrowing the gap with MSNBC and—more dauntingly—Fox News; gaining audience momentum for CNN’s recently rebooted flagship morning show; and winning the goodwill of employees, who saw morale tank during the rocky first eight months of Licht’s tenure.

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Can The Washington Post Stave Off a Mutiny?

Last we saw Post publisher Fred Ryan, the pitchforks were out as he retreated from a room full of furious employees after he’d informed them—in spectacularly ham-fisted fashion—of looming layoffs, and then refused to take any questions. (“Democracy dies in darkness, huh?” one staffer scoffed to this publication.) The fallout was swift: Video of the disastrous town hall circulated on Twitter; a gaggle of union holdouts, including several star reporters, enlisted with their colleagues in the NewsGuild; and reports swirled hinting at friction between Ryan and the executive editor he’d appointed just last year, Sally Buzbee. The drama unfolded against a backdrop of dimming financial prospects. Digital subscriptions are reportedly down. One presumes advertising is just as rough as it is throughout the industry. And the brass, unlike that of, say, The New York Times, haven’t exactly evinced a clear business strategy to restore the mojo. Is this the same Washington Post that enjoyed copious growth and success under the legendary newsroom reign of Marty Baron? The larger that question looms in the collective media consciousness, the more fragile Ryan’s leadership may start to seem.

Will The New York Times Avert a Strike?

At the time of this writing, Times leaders and their more than 1,300 employees in the NewsGuild remained at an impasse in a tense and protracted bargaining process, with the Guild reportedly rejecting a proposal to bring in a federal mediator. This latest development came on the heels of a work stoppage that left the Times, for 24 hours at least, without the firepower of a large segment of its journalistic corps. The one-day action was a significant escalation in the union’s fight for higher salaries befitting not only the realities of inflation, but the Times’ ongoing prosperity. It may not stop there. Over the past few years, the NewsGuild has expanded aggressively in membership and influence across the media, while demonstrating its willingness to resort to more hardball tactics. (“Radical” is a word I’ve heard tossed around to describe its professional leadership.) Last year, The New Yorker—which, like Vanity Fair, is owned by Condé Nast—came perilously close to a strike during its own tussle with the Guild. Which is to say, even if the prospect of Times journalists walking off the job indefinitely may seem remote, it’s hardly fanciful.

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Will Fox and News Corp Reunite?

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