Managing Editor Mark Whitaker to Leave CNN

CNN's executive vice president and managing editor cites Jeff Zucker as his reason for leaving

Mark Whitaker, CNN's executive vice president and managing editor, is leaving the network to clear the way for Jeff Zucker to build a management team, according to an email obtained by TheWrap.

CNNIn a memo to his colleagues, Whitaker, who arrived at CNN two and a half years ago, said he agreed to take his job because he shared the editorial vision of his then-bosses.

"Now, with Jeff Zucker’s arrival, we have a new leader with his own forceful ideas about where to take CNN’s reporting, programming and brand," Whitaker wrote in the memo. "For him to succeed, I believe he deserves his own team and management structure and the freedom to communicate one clear vision to the staff."

Another individual with knowledge of the departure told TheWrap that Whitaker is leaving, but it is unclear when his resignation will take effect.

Whitaker said he joined CNN under three conditions: that the network expand its national and international coverage, better integrate CNN.com with its TV broadcast and hire marquee names.

In his message to staff, he said he accomplished many of those initiatives, citing the hires of documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock and celebrity travel chef Anthony Bourdain.

"As someone who worked with Jeff at NBC," Whitaker wrote. "I know what a bold innovator he is, and I wish him and you all the best as you embark on CNN’s next great adventure."

Read Whitaker's full memo below:

From: Whitaker, Mark
Sent: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 8:30 AM
To: * Subject: To the Staff

 

Dear CNN Colleagues:

Two and a half years ago, when Jeff Bewkes, Phil Kent and Jim Walton first approached me about joining CNN in the newly created role of Managing Editor across all our TV and digital platforms, I told them that I would welcome the challenge under three conditions.

The first was that the CNN recommit itself to Ted Turner’s global vision of being the premier destination for news both domestic and international. I am proud that since I took the job, we have made good on that goal. From Election Day 2012 to our recent coverage of Superstorm Sandy and the Newtown school massacre, we have remained the network that Americans turn to when news matters most. On the international front, we have done groundbreaking reporting on everything from the Arab Spring and the uprising in Syria to the Japanese tsunami and the financial crisis in Europe. In 2011 that coverage brought us the best ratings we had had in years, and in 2012 it won us a record number of awards, including two Emmys, three Peabodys and four Eppys for our digital coverage.

The second condition was that we do more to drive editorial integration between CNN.com and our TV networks. I am gratified by the progress we have made in this area, from our weekly In Depth offerings to the inspiring CNN Heroes collaboration to the growth of CNN Money, iReport, Belief Blog, In America and other digital franchises. As our formidable traffic numbers attest, CNN’s future as a go-to destination for news online and across today’s new mobile and social media platforms looks very bright.

The third condition was that we make CNN a leader in diversity in its broadest sense—in the backgrounds of our on- and off-air talent, but also in the range of their experience and points of view. As Executive Vice President in charge of program and talent development, I was thrilled to attract Amy Entelis, Vinnie Malhotra and Ramon Escobar to CNN and to work with them to recruit journalists like Jake Tapper, John Berman and Miguel Marquez, contributors like Margaret Hoover, Van Jones, Ross Douthat, Charles Blow, Ron Brownstein and Ryan Lizza, and specialists like ESPN sports reporter Rachel Nichols.

On the programming front, my team has created the exciting new CNN Films franchise for distinguished documentaries and brought Anthony Bourdain and Morgan Spurlock to CNN to launch signature shows that will expand our scope of storytelling.

Now, with Jeff Zucker’s arrival, we have a new leader with his own forceful ideas about where to take CNN’s reporting, programming and brand. For him to succeed, I believe he deserves his own team and management structure and the freedom to communicate one clear vision to the staff. I have shared that conclusion with him and he has agreed to let me step down as Managing Editor and move on from CNN.

As someone who worked with Jeff at NBC, I know what a bold innovator he is, and I wish him and you all the best as you embark on CNN’s next great adventure.

Good luck and thanks for everything,

Mark