Explaining why the network replaced Jonathan Klein as president of CNN U.S. to reporters Friday morning, Jim Walton (pictured), its worldwide president, repeatedly cited what he characterized as unfair press coverage focusing on CNN's declining ratings, especially in prime time.
"There have been a number of stories over past few months about the end of CNN and the doom and gloom," Walton said. "It's remarkable to me. I understand it. Our prime time stars are in many people's opinion the public face of CNN. But it's a remarkable story, what we're doing."
Specifically, what's remarkable, according to Walton, is that CNN Worldwide is on track to increase its profits for its seventh consecutive year. "We're enjoying a time of profit in the news business when many folks around the world who do journalism are having financial difficulties," he said.
In light of that accomplishment, Walton said the various columnists who have offered their unsolicited thoughts about what CNN ought to be doing are missing the point. "The frustrating part is when many of the soothsayers come in and offer advice for how to fix CNN," he said. "That's what's frustrating to me, because CNN's not broken."
While Ken Jautz, who replaces Klein, has demonstrated a knack for creating programming and growing ratings during his time running sister channel HLN, Walton left no doubt that the timing of the substitution -- coming before two new prime time shows Klein lined up have had a chance to debut -- had as much to do with optics as with anything else. "We felt it was important to go ahead and make the move before we launched the new programs because we felt it was important not to have any disruption once the programs were on the air nor any seeming of dissatisfaction with the programs," he said.
Walton declined to say whether Klein's departure was voluntary, but Klein told New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman it was not. "I got shot," he said.
Walton also said CNN is creating a new position, executive vice president and managing editor, that will oversee coverage across all platforms, both in the U.S. and overseas. The network is currently searching for candidates. "He or she will be a strong editorial mind who will help shape our coverage and build content and add analysis to what we're doing," Walton said.