Accuracy in Media

After nearly 10 years at the helm, CNN Worldwide president Jim Walton announced today that he will be leaving the network at the end of the year to explore other interests.

During his tenure, Walton built CNN International into a widely recognized and profitable operation, but struggled with the U.S. operations as he watched CNN fall to third place behind MSNBC.

Walton issued the following memo to the CNN staff on Friday:

After more than 30 years at this company and nearly 10 years as the leader of this great news organization, I have decided to leave my role at CNN on December 31, 2012.

For some time, I’ve been talking with Phil Kent about wanting to make a change, and he supports my decision. I’ve told Phil that I will cooperate with any transition timeline that he and Time Warner want to implement. Phil requested that I work out the year and be available after that if needed, which I’ve agreed to do.

I am proud of what we have accomplished together over these last 10 years – innovative programming, the development of great talent in front of and behind the cameras, expansion in digital and mobile, significant investment and expansion in international coverage, financial success and, most importantly, great and trusted journalism.  Thank you for the role you have played in our successes.

CNN needs new thinking.  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.  And I’m ready for a change.  I have interests to explore and I want to give myself time to do it.

The next few months will be filled with election news and other important events that will require all of our focus to report the news with the quality and expertise the world expects of CNN.  I look forward to working alongside each of you, as I have over the past 30-plus years, to do just that.

Walton’s departure was inevitable given the continued pronounced ratings struggles CNN has had in the last year. Rather than make any wholesale changes, Walton has preferred a more piecemeal method, which has driven the network’s ratings further into the ground. The network lacks a clear identity at a time when Fox News and MSNBC have staked out their territory on the political spectrum.

If CNN needs help in finding a replacement for Walton, I hear Ted Turner is available.

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