The decline of CNN has taken an interesting twist, with executives apparently terrified about possible revenge plans.
Extra security personnel were reportedly sighted both outside Licht’s 17th floor corporate office on Thursday, as well as following the new CNN chairman as he walked about the network offices conducting business.
According to the digital media company Puck, Licht seemingly hired extra security on Thursday in an effort to diffuse any angry CNN employees who met the chopping block as the 51-year-old producer-turned-network boss announced the latest round of layoffs.
This time around, Licht reportedly axed hundreds of staffers that included both on-air talent and off-camera workers.
Some notable names who were let go from the struggling news network included CNN contributors like Preet Bharara and Paul Begala; commentators like Chris Cillizza; and correspondents such as Dan Merica and Alison Kosik.
But while Licht axed hundreds of employees, and hired extra security detail to prevent any unwanted escalations, some CNN employees praised the network chairman for choosing to keep his office doors open all Thursday so his 4,000 remaining staffers could speak with him about the latest round of layoffs.
“That’s actual leadership,” said one media executive who noted how Licht previously kept his distance from his employees, choosing to stay in his office five floors above the network’s workforce fray. “That’s not easy.”
Still, despite keeping his doors open to talk, many employees reportedly did not take Licht up on his offer.
“What were we supposed to talk about?” said one staffer, while another staffer in D.C. acknowledged that “everyone’s depressed” at CNN following Thursday’s network bloodbath.
“There is widespread concern over the global economic outlook, and we must factor that risk into our long-term planning,” Licht wrote in October. “All this together will mean noticeable change to this organization. That, by definition, is unsettling.”
“These changes will not be easy because they will affect people, budgets, and projects,” he added.
Licht again warned his staffers that layoffs were expected during a town hall he held in November in which he announced the next round of layoffs would come as early as the first week of December.
“There are huge nerves about that,” said one CNN insider regarding Licht’s November town hall. “It wasn’t clear from that town hall who they’re going to fire. We’re waiting for answers on that.”
Thursday’s layoff bloodbath came as an abrupt departure from Licht’s promise over the summer that “no layoffs” were set to take place at the network despite reports claiming otherwise.
“As it relates to CNN, there are no layoffs per se,” Licht said during a staff-wide event in June. “A layoff is a downsizing, where you are given a target, and that is not happening at CNN.”