CNN fired their CEO Chris Licht last week after just 13 months on the job. Licht’s performance wasn’t great, but firing him isn’t going to fix any of the lingering problems that the dying corporate media outlet is still facing. Mike Papantonio & Farron Cousins discuss more.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio: CNN fired their CEO Chris Licht last week after just 13 months on the job. Licht’s performance wasn’t great. It was pitiful. But firing him isn’t going to fix any of the problems that this dying, dying, dead corporate media outlet is still facing. Who killed them? Zucker. Zucker killed these people, but they still, what’s so amazing, when I read this story, the staff that Zucker hired said, oh, we want Zucker back. Really? He destroyed your job. He’s destroyed your network. He’s destroyed everything about CNN, but the staff wants him back. It’s like crazy people, crazy people are running the crazy asylum. Right? And don’t they have to respond to these employees, say, I don’t care what you want. This isn’t working for us. Right?

Farron Cousins: I agree. I mean, I don’t think these employees necessarily need to be calling all the shots. I do think they should have a say, you know, in what happens at their network. This is their job. But at the same time, I think all of that is total BS. I don’t think Licht was fired because he did the Trump Town Hall and the employees didn’t like it. Nobody liked it, but it did bring them ratings. So in terms of what CNN did, for them, the network, it was a success. What I think the big problem is with not Licht, not even necessary, well, actually it does go back to Zucker. That network is the most boring thing you can find on cable TV. Not just cable news, but cable TV in general. Because even the hosts, they look bored. They look tired. They don’t want to be there. They just want to go in, read their script and get the hell out of there.

Mike Papantonio: Isn’t that part of the problem? Read the script. Okay. Do you think Walter Cronkite came on the set every night and just read the script? Or do you think he worked on the story? Do you think Huntley and Brinkley just came in every night and just read a script? Or did they actually work on the story themselves? We don’t have news reporters anymore. Look, this is, there’s an easy solution. By the way, the article that was written on this, it just, it landed the same way we have. We have been saying there’s an easy solution here. You know what it is? Report the news. Tell us what the news is. Put people in the field that are actually journalists. People, I don’t, you know, people are tired of looking at these talking heads that look like game show celebrity hosts.

They don’t want that anymore. They want the news. When they go to CNN, they want the news. Matter of fact, they did the numbers on this and they found out people still go to CNN when there is a crisis, right? So, and the conclusion to all of this is, okay, if they go to CNN when there’s a crisis, great. That’s gonna, I hate that there’s a crisis, but they go to CNN. But you could take that and you could add something real simple. Report the news again. Tell us what the news is. I don’t need that little freak, stellar, Stelter, whatever his name was, or Don Lemon giving me an idea of what they think about it. Just tell me the news.

Farron Cousins: Well, and you know, when you look at Fox News and you look at MSNBC, you know, they’re the two at the top of the ratings. And it’s not just because of the ideological bents of those networks. That does play a role. But at the same time, people tune into it because they’re watching hosts who actually believe in what they’re talking about. They have passion. They enjoy what they’re doing. And that is a big difference, right? Even if you disagree with, you know, the host, whatever, doesn’t matter. They’re still passionate about it. Which is same as you and me, because we can sit here, talk about a story about, look, Americans.

Mike Papantonio: But this isn’t, we’re not reporting. We’re telling the news. But when you come here, you expect to get an opinion, right?

Farron Cousins: Yeah.

Mike Papantonio: I’d like the place where I can turn on the news and it’s, well, this is the news. And then let me determine what my angle is gonna be on that. Don’t give me some, you know, what’s the guy’s name? Brian, the little, the little.

Farron Cousins: Stelter. Stelter, I think.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah. The little mi, mi, small guy. So, do I really want to hear from him. But Zucker built it like that. Zucker surrounded the network with ideologues just like him. And look, they’re on life support right now. I don’t know that they’re gonna make it another two years. They’re on life support. Matter of fact, the owners of the company, Warner, they say, we do this not to make money. Well, that’s a good thing because they ain’t gonna make any money.

Farron Cousins: Well, the other part of it too is, and we’ve talked about this, rather than hiring journalists, the people going out there and finding the stories, who are they hiring? They’re hiring the retired generals. They’re hiring people from the intelligence agency. They’re hiring former politicians to give us the inside scoop. We don’t want the inside scoop of a political decision. What we want are the people on the ground, the people making the FOIA requests and uncovering government misdeeds. We want the people on the ground in Flint, Michigan. We want Jordan Chariton, we want David Sirota’s.

Mike Papantonio: Exactly.

Farron Cousins: And Ken Klippenstein. That’s what we want on TV.

Mike Papantonio: Real reporters. People that we draw from. I mean, people that, like Klippenstein is a great example. He’s a real journalist. Lee Fang is a real journalist. Put them on to tell the news and hell with their opinions. Just give us the news. Do the hard work and get the news. I thought this was interesting. I went back and looked at an article when they tried to characterize who’s watching CNN and they almost described it as old, angry, one-time hippies who now have moved, who’ve now moved to the position of couch potatoes. And they now are simply focused on the same thing that they wanted to hear, which is anger, anger, anger. They’re not in the streets anymore.

This isn’t me talking, by the way. They’re not in the streets anymore. They’re at home listening to it because they want to get mad. You know, one day they were working, they were hate Ashbury or in the street protesting. The next day they’re on Wall Street working as inside traders or working as insurance executives. These are the folks, if you look at the demographics, those are the folks that are watching that program. So now what ends up happening is they appeal, they continue to try to appeal to that and it’s not working. And at what point do you say we gotta try something different, right?

Farron Cousins: Well, I don’t think they’re there yet. They’re gonna keep, you know, rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Mike Papantonio: According to them, money doesn’t matter. And that’s a great thing if money doesn’t matter. But at some point, the shareholders that own the company are gonna say, you know, it kind of does matter.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.