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CNN drops 40 journalists but plans to add more

Jeff Zucker just passed his first-year anniversary as president of CNN.

Jeff Zucker just passed his first-year anniversary as president of CNN.

The Financial Times Thursday reported that CNN laid off 40 journalists – many in senior positions – late last year as part of a reorganization.

A CNN spokeswoman did not dispute the FT story, simply saying it was “old news” and noting that the website TVNewser had mentioned changes in early November. The TVNewser story did not specify how many people were leaving. She also didn’t say how many of the cuts were made in Atlanta, where about half of CNN’s employees are based.

CNN told the FT it plans to add 100 people to its headcount of about 4,000 employees this year, though she wasn’t specific if they’d all be in the newsroom.

A former employee told me that many senior staffers were given a choice of a pay cut or a severance package. Several took the severance package.

Jeff Zucker has been president of CNN for a year. He has made some moves, including the return of “Crossfire,” a new morning show and greater use of documentaries created by outside companies. The network has been airing more entertainment-related specials recently including an hour about Amy Poehler and Tiny Fey before their hosting gig on the Golden Globes earlier this month.

He has told media outlets recently that more changes are coming, especially during prime time. He is also seeking more programming like the Emmy-winning “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” which was created under his predecessor Jim Walton.

Ratings have improved at times, but a fallow period in the news recently has led to weaker ratings, including a 20-year low in primetime ratings earlier this month.

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