The man who chronicled the life of CNN founder Ted Turner wished the media mogul were sane enough to restore credibility to the once-proud network.
Journalist and investor Porter Bibb wrote the 1993 Turner biography, It Ain’t So Easy As It Looks: Ted Turner’s Amazing Story, which details the early days of CNN. Turner changed the television news landscape with the founding of the 24-hour cable news channel in 1980, but in recent years the channel has struggled to resonate with Americans.
“Today when I look at CNN, I cry for Ted Turner because he’s really unhappy,” Bibb told Fox News Digital.
Turner suffers from Lewy body dementia, a devastating, terminal illness that makes communication extremely difficult. Bibb said he didn’t know how much of CNN content Turner could absorb these days, but was confident he wouldn’t be satisfied with it.
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“It is truly tragic that Ted is currently suffering from Lewy Body Syndrome and is not 100% able to step in and bring CNN back to its legacy. But I know he’s really unhappy and very disillusioned,” Bibb said.
“Look what Ted Turner created at CNN about 40 years ago. It was all news when it happened, where it happened on the ground. They lost that,” Bibb said, noting that much of CNN’s daytime programming is filled with anchors. standing around on set.”
CNN struggles with viewership issues, regularly reporting low viewership figures that sometimes lag even behind obscure cable offerings. Many think the network has drifted too far to the left under ex-network chief Jeff Zucker, and current CEO Chris Licht has been vilified by liberals for providing a platform for former President Trump at a recent town hall meeting.
CNN presenter Christiane Amanpour publicly criticized Licht for the event. CNN host Anderson Cooper agreed that City Hall was “troubling” and said viewers have a right to be angry and stop watching the channel, although he noted that Trump is a significant candidate and cannot be ignored .
Bibb believes Turner would be particularly upset by the recent power struggles. Licht was the subject of widespread criticism from CNN staffers, who were disgruntled for a variety of reasons, with an unflattering Atlantic profile serving as a catalyst for a flurry of negative press.
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Licht apologized to staff on Monday, admitted he had become a distraction and vowed to win over internal critics. Bibb thinks it’s just too little, too late.
“I think Chris Licht’s editorial meeting with his staff yesterday was among the most ill-advised events I’ve seen at CNN in the last six months, and there was no shortage of that,” Bibb said.
“I think it’s the interface that light has with both the staff and its crews and the public and other media. It’s just — it’s horrifying,” Bibb said. “That he’s pushed CNN into an even deeper hole than it was before he arrived is disheartening, to say the least.”
Licht’s own media reporter, CNN’s Oliver Darcy, gutted his boss on Monday night.
“However, whether Licht can actually win over his army of journalists is far from certain – especially now that more than a year into his tenure he is trying to reshape relations after upsetting much of the staff base and the good gambled away any will he had when he took charge of the network,” Darcy wrote.
“Following The Atlantic’s explosive story, I spoke to dozens of employees across the company. A wide variety of emotions flow through the halls of CNN. Some employees are frustrated. Others are angry. Many are saddened by it.” “It is a terrible condition that has gripped an organization they love,” Darcy continued. “However, there is one almost universal opinion that has been conveyed to me: light has lost space.”
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Bibb has his own journalistic talents, including serving as a White House correspondent for Newsweek, as the first editor of Rolling Stone, and as a decades-long financial commentator on networks such as CNBC, Bloomberg, and CNN himself. He doesn’t believe Licht has done anything to change the network to improve, apart from trying to appear less partisan, which has angered its predominantly liberal base.
“It’s not what CNN needs,” he said.
Bibb believes that David Zaslav, the powerful CEO of CNN parent company Warner Bros. Discovery, will not have much patience for light as ratings plummet and the network is bombarded with damning news seemingly every hour.
“I think Zaslav is dealing with other issues at the moment, but I’d say Chris is history in the next 90 days,” Bibb said. “I give Chris Licht 90 days.”
A spokesman for Ted Turner did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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Fox News’ David Rutz contributed to this report.