Chris Licht, the new chairman of CNN, has told employees that he is retooling the network’s programming.
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Brian Stelter, the top media reporter at CNN, is leaving the network after executives decided to cancel his Sunday show, “Reliable Sources,” in one of the first big programming moves under new leadership at the company.
The final edition of the show will be on Sunday, a spokesman for CNN said on Thursday.
The cancellation of “Reliable Sources” — a show that has aired for about three decades — is a striking change by Chris Licht, the new chairman of CNN, who took over this spring after the sudden resignation of Jeff Zucker. Mr. Zucker left after failing to disclose a romantic relationship with another top CNN executive.
Under Mr. Licht, CNN has eschewed the “breaking news” banners that once heralded stories large and small, and political news shows have tried to book more conservative voices. He has given few other public clues about any possible broader changes at the cable network.
But leaders of CNN’s new corporate parent, Warner Bros. Discovery, have suggested that they want the network’s programming to have more straight news reporting and fewer opinionated takes from hosts. David Zaslav, the company’s chief executive, has said that he wants a network for both Republicans and Democrats. John Malone, an influential Warner Bros. Discovery shareholder, said that he wanted the network to “evolve back to the kind of journalism that it started with” in an interview with CNBC last year.
That new focus seemed to put Mr. Stelter, who has been critical of former President Donald J. Trump and his treatment of the press, in possible jeopardy. On average, during that time slot, more people watched Mr. Stelter’s show in recent years than they did MSNBC, but fewer people watched it than Fox News, according to data from Nielsen.
In an email to The New York Times, Mr. Malone said that he had “nothing to do with” the cancellation of Mr. Stelter’s show. Mr. Malone said he wants “the ‘news’ portion of CNN to be more centrist, but I am not in control or directly involved.”
The decision to cancel the show is part of CNN’s “refreshed Sunday lineup,” the company spokesman said on Thursday. The lineup will include a number of new programs, such as “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace,” an interview program featuring the veteran Sunday show interlocutor.
More changes are expected. Mr. Licht, a veteran producer who helped conceive MSNBC’s popular “Morning Joe” round table, told employees in a town-hall meeting that he intends to be involved in the network’s morning programming. He has also said that he is planning to retool some of the evening programming, including at 9 p.m., where the departure of Chris Cuomo has left a critical gap in prime time.
Mr. Licht recently hired Ryan Kadro, who was previously the executive producer of “CBS This Morning,” to help develop new programming. Puck, a news site, earlier reported on the hire.
The company praised Mr. Stelter for his work at the network.
“We appreciate his contributions to the network and wish him well as he embarks on new endeavors,” the CNN spokesman said.
What we consider before using anonymous sources. How do the sources know the information? What’s their motivation for telling us? Have they proved reliable in the past? Can we corroborate the information? Even with these questions satisfied, The Times uses anonymous sources as a last resort. The reporter and at least one editor know the identity of the source.
Amy Entelis, CNN’s executive vice president for talent and content development, said in a statement that Mr. Stelter would depart CNN as “an impeccable broadcaster.”
“We are proud of what Brian and his team accomplished over the years, and we’re confident their impact and influence will long outlive the show,” Ms. Entelis said.
In a statement, Mr. Stelter said that he was grateful for the last nine years at CNN and thankful to viewers who tuned in.
“It was a rare privilege to lead a weekly show focused on the press at a time when it has never been more consequential,” Mr. Stelter said. “I’ll have more to say on Sunday.”
The network and its website will continue covering the media industry. Oliver Darcy, a senior media reporter at CNN, will lead CNN’s Reliable Sources newsletter. Staff of Mr. Stelter’s show have been invited to apply to other jobs at the network.
News of the show’s cancellation was earlier reported by NPR. It put Mr. Stelter, 36, an inveterate media reporter with an unflagging presence on Twitter, in the unusual position of being at the center of a story in an industry he covers.
Before he joined CNN, Mr. Stelter spent six years at The New York Times, where he became known for breaking big stories about the TV news industry. He was hired at The Times after he had founded a media news site, TV Newser, from his dorm room at Towson University.
Last year, Mr. Stelter signed a deal for another four years at a salary of close to $1 million annually for his work on TV in addition to the Reliable Sources newsletter, his podcast and a daily show for the defunct CNN+ streaming service, according to four people with knowledge of the discussions. Several other major CNN stars, including Don Lemon and Jake Tapper, also have deals that have them locked in for at least two more years.
Mr. Stelter was told of his show’s cancellation at a meeting with Mr. Licht on Wednesday, said two of the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to relay confidential discussions.
News of Mr. Stelter’s departure from CNN comes less than a week after Jeffrey Toobin, a longtime legal affairs commentator at the network, announced he was leaving.