Jeff Zucker has officially been on the job at CNN for all of 8 days, but sweeping changes are already underway at the ratings-challenged cable news network.
First up: The network announced on Tuesday the hiring of “20-20” anchor Chris Cuomo, who will play “a major role” on a new, as-yet-untitled morning show. The program is currently in development and is expected to launch sometime in the spring, according to a CNN spokesperson. Cuomo, the younger brother of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, is no stranger to the wee hours: He was news anchor on “Good Morning America” from 2006 to 2009.
In a press statement, Zucker praised Cuomo as “an accomplished anchor who is already an established name in morning television, as well as a widely respected investigative journalist” who “never forgets about the viewer.”
The announcement did not address the fate of Soledad O’Brien, the host of the network’s current morning show, “Starting Point,” but a CNN spokesperson said that “Soledad is very important to the network and we are discussing various options with her.”
The network declined to comment on a Deadline report that Erin Burnett, who currently hosts “OutFront” at 7 p.m., would join Cuomo in the mornings.
While Zucker’s overall strategy for the network still remains somewhat unclear – at least beyond his stated intention to broaden the definition of the news beyond "politics and war" – the poaching of Cuomo indicates the importance of the a.m. shift to the man who oversaw “Today” in its heyday.
Cuomo’s arrives as three of the network’s most familiar political contributors James Carville, Mary Matalin and Erick Erickson, are also departing. Carville, a prominent democratic strategist, has been with the network in various capacities since 2002. He is married to the conservative Matalin, a CNN contributor since 2009.
Also on his way out is Erick Erickson, who also joined the network in 2009. The pundit confirmed the “very, very difficult decision” to leave CNN in a post on Red State, the right-leaning website where is an editor. Their departure, as well as the presence of fresh faces like Van Jones, Cornell Belcher and Margaret Hoover during last week’s Presidential Inauguration, signals a desire to revitalize the network’s political coverage in an effort to compete with MSNBC and Fox.
The shakeup isn’t limited to on-camera talent, however. Mark Whitaker, the network’s managing editor and second-in-command since 2011, announced his departure in an internal memo Tuesday morning.
“For him to succeed, I believe he deserves his own team and management structure and the freedom to communicate one clear vision to the staff. I have shared that conclusion with him and he has agreed to let me step down as Managing Editor and move on from CNN,” Whitaker wrote, praising Zucker as a “bold innovator.”
Rather than replacing Whitaker, Zucker will absorb his duties. “Jeff comes from an editorial background and will lead the editorial direction for CNN Worldwide,” said a CNN spokesperson.
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