CNN President Jim Walton announced on Friday that he will step down from his post at the network at the end of the year.
“CNN needs new thinking,” he said in a note to staff. “That starts with a new leader who brings a different perspective, different experiences and a new plan, one who will build on our great foundation and will commit to seeing it through.”Walton has been CNN’s president for nearly 10 years. He started at the cable news pioneer in 1981, shortly after it launched. In an interview with the Associated Press, Walton said it’s “clear there’s a lot of spotlight on CNN’s U.S. performance and it’s reasonable that there’s that spotlight.”
That spotlight has focused on CNN’s declining ratings and its erroneous reporting on the Supreme Court’s health care law ruling. CNN, according to the AP, had its worst-ever ratings for a second quarter. Some of its prime-time shows are down 40 percent. It consistently trails Fox News and MSNBC. And during a moment when the nonpartisan network could have shined, it jumped the gun on its Affordable Care Act coverage and reported that the high court struck down the law’s individual mandate.
Walton plans to leave his role at CNN on December 31. In the meantime, Turner Broadcasting CEO Phil Kent will lead the search for a new president. Walton said in his note that he and Kent have been talking for “some time” about Walton’s desire to make a change.
Current TV President David Bohrman, formerly CNN’s vice president of programming and Washington bureau chief, said Walton’s departure will provide a chance to “reinvigorate” the network. “CNN is such an important part of the world’s media … it needs to be, and it needs to stay ahead of the rest.”