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New CNN leadership is 'evaluating' partisan staffers, prepared to hand out pink slips: Report

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MANDEL NGAN / AFP (left), Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for CNN (right)

New leadership at CNN is evaluating the network's talent, and top brass are reportedly prepared to distribute pink slips to employees who are overly partisan.

What are the details?

Chris Licht, the new chairman and CEO of CNN, is "evaluating whether personalities and programming that grew polarizing during the Trump era can adapt to the network's new priority to be less partisan," Axios reported Tuesday.

Multiple sources told the news outlet that Licht is prepared to fire staffers who cannot drop their partisan bias for objective journalism.

Licht, therefore, is affording employees the opportunity to show they are committed to CNN's goal of moving away from partisan content, which has progressively deteriorated the network's standing and trust with viewers.

Practically, this means that on-air talent will be expected to give "respectful interviews that don't feel like PR stunts," Axios reported. For staffers who work behind the scenes, they will reportedly be evaluated on whether their work promotes nuance in the political discourse or contributes to more partisan noise.

The report did not name if any on-air personalities are specifically being evaluated. However, it noted that Jim Acosta, who was given his own show after becoming a top CNN reporter during the Trump administration, and Brian Stelter are often criticized for their partisan content.

What is the background?

Dialing down partisan content is a central goal of Licht and Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav. In February, Axios reported that Zaslav would prioritize credibility and trust among viewers over ratings.

On his first official day as CNN's new boss, Licht told staffers that "too many people have lost trust in the news media."

"I think we can be a beacon in regaining that trust by being an organization that exemplifies the best characteristics of journalism: fearlessly speaking truth to power, challenging the status quo, questioning 'group-think' and educating viewers and readers with straightforward facts and insightful commentary, while always being respectful of differing viewpoints," Licht added.

Just last week, Licht took the step of limiting what CNN employees may call "breaking news" in hopes of repairing trust with its audience. Under Licht's leadership, CNN's stylebook was edited to establish concrete parameters for what may be designed as "breaking news."

"We are truth-tellers, focused on informing, not alarming our viewers," Licht reportedly told staffers in a memo. "You’ve already seen far less of the 'Breaking News' banner across our programming."

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