The Trump curse…

Should anyone be surprised that the network whose hosts have dedicated the lion’s share of TV time to a phony Trump-Russia collusion narrative is talking about cutting jobs, just as the whole Russia story is blowing up the facesDemocratsrats and their allies in the media? 

Besides the occasional Twitter-issued invective from the president and the errant journalism scandal, CNN has seemed largely indomitable during the last couple of years. Since taking over the flagging network in 2013, President Jeff Zucker has championed original documentary programming, enhanced the brand’s journalistic efforts, and moved away from some of the more promiscuous tactics of cable news that defined his early tenure—such as the occasionally breathless coverage of a tragically marooned cruise ship. He’s adroitly leveraged the daily rapture of the Donald Trump White House into the network’s highest revenues and ratings in its history. He’s also attempted to thrust the brand headlong into the digital space, with investments in video start-ups like Beme and Great Big Story, and the expansion of verticals such as CNN Politics and CNN Media, Brian Stelter’s digital hub that dovetails with the Sunday show Reliable Sources and creates a late-evening newsletter that has become essential reading for members of the media-entertainment elite. The New York Times reported that the digital operation generated $300 million in revenue in 2016.

But despite the so-called Trump Bump, CNN appears to be re-thinking at least some elements of its digital strategy. I’ve learned that CNN, a key property in AT&T’s planned takeover of CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, is targeting big savings on the digital side, with as many as 50 jobs around the globe scheduled to be eliminated this week, according to people familiar with the matter, who noted the exact number could still be in flux. The cuts will affect employees who work in premium businesses including CNN Money, video, product, tech and social publishing, these people said. Several high profile digital initiatives are being scaled back, including CNN’s virtual reality productions and its efforts on Snapchat, where CNN recently nixed a live daily webcast after just four months. CNN’s business-oriented MoneyStream app, as BuzzFeed reported earlier this month, is in the gutter as well. A team that works on the digital extensions of documentary-style TV shows, such as Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknownand Lisa Ling’s This is Life, as well as the Brooke Baldwin series American Woman, is also being reorganized.

The looming cuts may not be altogether Earth-shattering for an institution with thousands of employees around the world and $1 billion in annual profits. But one imagines they will at least further rattle nerves within a company already beset by a fair amount of uncertainty, which largely centers around how long Zucker will remain after AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, assuming the Department of Justice doesn’t succeed in its efforts to scuttle the deal. –Vanity Fair


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