David Zaslav strikes again. But this time in the form of new CNN Chief Chris Licht. Acting as a Corporate Thanos, Licht, amid ongoing cutbacks at CNN, completely eliminated HLN (Headline News) with one snap. This includes former Chicago reporter Robin Meade’s Morning Express.
Yesterday, Warner Bros. Discovery nixed the entire HLN operation, based at CNN Center in Atlanta. In a memo to staff on Thursday, CNN chief Chris Licht said HLN’s live programming will end on December 6. In his memo, Licht acknowledged Meade’s contributions to the network: “I know the HLN audience will miss her and the other HLN talent.”
With morale already at a low, Licht also let go several paid contributors on Wednesday and more full-time staff across CNN operations on Thursday. A specific number has not been released. Although Variety reported Thurday morning, Variety also reported that veteran Atlanta-based reporter Martin Savidge was among those let go.
Ted Turner originally launched HLN as CNN2 in 1982. While the viewing audience has always been significantly lower than CNN, MSNBC and CNBC, Meade’s show maintained a loyal audience. The sister network also became a source of quick-hit 24/7 news, but then morphed into a slate of true crime shows.
Meade was the last key personality standing. She was the weekday morning host for more than 21 years, the longest-running morning news anchor in TV history, recently exceeding Matt Lauer’s tenure at NBC’s Today show.
Meade began her career in broadcasting as a reporter at Mansfield’s WMFD-TV in her home state of Ohio. She then worked as an anchor and reporter at WCMH-TV in Columbus, Ohio, and at WJW-TV in Cleveland.
She joined NBC Chicago affiliate WMAQ-TV where she started anchoring the morning newscasts and then co-anchored the weekend newscasts and also served as a general assignment correspondent for the station. While at WMAQ-TV, she covered the 1996 Olympics, which included special reporting on the Centennial Olympic Park bombing.
She then joined HLN in 2001.
In celebrating her 20th anniversary at Morning Express, Meade told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “I always joke, ‘I can’t believe I haven’t been fired yet!’ But I’m very grateful. It is the most surreal experience when someone says, ‘I’ve been watching you since junior high,’ and they’re 30 now! I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the viewers.”
In its early years before the Internet, CNN Headline News would run a repetitive 30-minute news wheel mixing hard news, features and sports. In 2001, the network began using multiple anchors and cluttered the screen with a scrolling news ticker and added Meade to mornings.
CNN will begin simulcasting its new CNN This Morning featuring Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins on HLN, according to Variety.
CNN International was also affected. Licht’s memo Thursday also noted some “reorganizing” of CNN International which will remove one 5 pm. program, which will now feature a simulcast from the regular CNN feed. The memo also mentioned “restructuring across some of our beats, realigning resources to staff up in some units and in more areas around the country… Many of the staff reductions in Newsgathering will be offset by the addition of new roles.”
The Reel 360 News Team will definitely miss Meade’s smile in the morning. It was better than coffee.