CNN Is Shedding Anchors, Producers. Rivals Keep Picking Them Up

CNN keeps feeding the mouths that bite it.

As Warner Bros. Discovery has orchestrated massive changes and cuts to the popular news giant, a stream of producers, anchors and executives have left — some of their own volition, and many of them not. But no matter the case, a growing number of these now-former CNN die-hards are being scooped up by rivals including MSNBC, ABC News and CBS News.

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CBS News on Wednesday announced it had lined up Lisa Ling as a contributor. The veteran journalist spent eight years at CNN leading viewers through interesting issues as host of the documentary series, This Is Life,” which was cancelled amid a cutback of original programming that uses outside partners. ABC News on Wednesday announced that Brooke Bower, who had been managing editor of CNN Politics, was joining as executive producer of the Sunday politics show “This Week.”

Warner Bros. Discovery took over CNN operations in April of last year, with Chris Licht arriving soon thereafter as the news outlet’s news chairman and CEO. Since that time, the company has scuttled an ambitious streaming project, CNN+, for which staffing had aggressively increased, and cut dozens of employees. Warner Bros. Discovery carries an onerous debt load as a result of the merger that created it and took various fiscal charges as it began to write down programming and content projects.

CNN declined to comment.

While the CNN staffing cuts and departmental restructuring may help the parent company’s bottom line, there is a growing sense that it is starting to fuel efforts by CNN rivals. Rebecca Kutler had a hand in the success of CNN anchors and contributors including Abby Phillip and Van Jones over the course of a two-decade career. She left CNN in June of 2022, and was named senior vice president of content strategy at MSNBC within three months. David P. Gelles in August was named the new executive producer of “Meet the Press.” He had been developing programs for CNN+.

Anchors and correspondents are also finding jobs elsewhere. Laura Jarrett was seen as an up-and-coming prospect at CNN in early 2020, given a new assignment of co-anchoring “Early Start” with veteran Christine Romans. In November of last year, she joined NBC News to cover the Supreme Court and U.S. Department of Justice. Ryan Nobles, a former CNN congressional correspondent, joined NBC News a month earlier. And Ana Cabrera, a popular daytime anchor at CNN, left the network late last year, eventually joining MSNBC. A person familiar with the matter says the anchor found CNN could not or would not compete against rival compensation offers.

To be sure, CNN has made hires as well. Luciana Lopez, a former deputy managing editor at USA Today, was recently named managing editor of CNN Business. Yet many of the recent Warner Bros. Discovery-backed moves at CNN in recent months seem tilted at having the operation do more with what’s ;left under its umbrella. The new Sunday program, “The Whole Story,” offers deep dives from CNN correspondents like Bill Weir or Nick Paton Walsh who rarely get to command an hour of their own. CNN has cut back on co-productions of documentary films and series in favor of projects it can devise in house.

While the cuts may boost the efforts of CNN’s parent company, they may also help competitors thrive. MSNBC launched a documentary series led by actor John Leguizamo, who introduced viewers to Latino contributions in regions across the U.S. To some observers, the maneuver represented a bid to find a new Anthony Bourdain or Stanley Tucci, two personalities who examined food, culture and cuisine in various parts of the world — for CNN. Earlier this month, Tucci expressed hope to Variety that some other outlet would pick up his program, “Searching for Italy.”

Given others’ interest in former CNN personnel, he may have some reason to believe.

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