News & Insights

The Deadline: Labor Strife and Data Concerns

By Rebecca Epps

The Deadline - Media Intelligence Newsletter.

Shifting Tides in Media: Labor Qualms, Record-Breaking Audiences, and Top Leadership Strategy Pushes Fall Short

Key Highlights:

  • Strategy Shifts: New leadership strategy pushes to revamp content and show structure on the broadcast level falls flat. New hires hope to add some new life.
  • New Content Pushes & New Players Enter the Field: Top print outlets push in new realms of coverage and focus, while embattled media groups see interest from new voices in the media buying landscape.
  • Labor Strife’s & Data Concerns Continue: Concerns about disinformation and misuse of technology continue while labor tensions at newspapers divide staff.

Industry News

Labor Controversies at the New York Times Intensifies

The labor strifes at the New York Times are intensifying, dividing staff members. After two years and over 50 bargaining sessions, the union and management have been unable to agree on wages and healthcare benefits, among other issues. Divisions have also surfaced among staffers over whether the union is playing a constructive role in the newsroom. In February, Times contributors and some staff signed an open letter to the news organization’s standards editor laying out concerns about transgender coverage. Two NYT Editors stated in a note to staff defending the paper’s coverage, saying the Times prohibits journalists from aligning themselves with advocacy groups and wouldn’t tolerate participation by Times journalists in protests or attacks on colleagues.

CNN’s Push to Revamp Its Primetime Off to a Slow Start

CNN’s new chairman, Chris Licht, had big plans to revamp the network’s primetime, the highlight of which was the debut of “CNN Primetime” which aired in the 9 p.m. slot. A few weeks after its debut on February 22, viewership has fallen below what the network was drawing in the time slot just a few months ago. In the beginning of the month, when the network aired the President Biden and Zelensky interviews, as well as a town hall with Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia, CNN delivered its fourth lowest 9 p.m. weekly ratings in 24 years. CNN has had a rocky run since Mr. Licht, a former morning-show and late-night producer, was named to the job about a year ago. The network downsized its staff, jettisoned a new streaming channel, and faced an uproar over sexist remarks by anchor Don Lemon.

Disney’s Streaming Strategy Takes Center Stage Under New CEO

Bob Iger’s appointment as CEO of Disney in 2020 has seen the media giant make a seismic shift in its content strategy, with a renewed focus on streaming services and direct-to-consumer offerings. This shift led to the launch of Disney+ and Hulu and a significant reorganization of the company’s media and entertainment division. Speaking at a Morgan Stanley conference, Iger said that the company will specifically be looking at how much it is spending on content, and how many projects it produces going forward. In summary, Iger said Disney will reduce costs on films and TV shows to focus on quality, not volume. It comes in the form of reducing the expense per content, whether it’s a TV series or a film, where “costs have just skyrocketed,” Iger said at the Morgan Stanley investor conference.

TikTok Faces Legal Challenges Over Data Harvesting

The TikTok controversy continues as the company is facing a slew of lawsuits filed against the popular video-sharing app over its data collection practices. TikTok has been accused of using its in-app browser to collect data on users’ internet activity, even when they’re not using the app. The lawsuit, which was filed in the US, European Union, and the United Kingdom, highlights growing concerns over data privacy and tech companies’ use of user data. With TikTok’s popularity continuing to soar, it remains to be seen how these legal challenges will impact the app’s future growth and success.

Group Black Bids for Vice Media in a $400 Million Deal

Group Black, a company that aims to invest in and develop Black-owned media firms, is pursuing big potential acquisitions in the digital-media space, the latest of which included submitting a bid of about $400 million for Vice Media. The embattled Vice Media owes millions of dollars in overdue payments to several vendors, some of whom have resorted to debt collectors. The bid by Group Black is the latest in a series of attempts to acquire the digital media company, which has struggled in recent years due to declining ad revenue and increased competition. Group Black, which was co-founded in 2021 by Black entrepreneurs Travis Montaque, Richelieu Dennis and Bonin Bough, are looking to increase the amount of Black-owned media, including by acquiring existing high-profile media brands and adding more multicultural voices and influence.

Oscars 2023 Ranks in Record-Breaking TV Ratings

The 95th Academy Awards, to little surprise, was another record-breaking show. ABC’s telecast of the 95th awards brought in audience viewership up by more than 2 million viewers from a year ago. That’s a 13 percent improvement in viewers and a 7 percent bump in adults 18-49 from last year’s awards, which delivered 16.62 million viewers and a 3.76 rating in the 18-49 demographic. The awards ceremony drew the largest audience for any awards show since the 2020 Oscars — held a few weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic led to widespread lockdowns — averaged 23.64 million viewers.

CNN Appoints New Executive Producers to Revamp Morning Show

CNN has recently announced the appointment of two new executive producers, Joanne Lipman, and Jonathan Wald, to revitalize and rebrand the network’s flagship morning program, “CNN This Morning”. Lipman and Wald, both seasoned media veterans with extensive experience in broadcast journalism, are set to bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to the morning show in an effort to attract a wider audience and boost ratings. While every morning show has producers working the evening before to ensure a smooth program the following day, having a dedicated EP suggests a deeper commitment to developing packages and segments for the show, or as CNN described it in a release: “bolstering the show’s 24-hour infrastructure and editorial operations so it’s best positioned for the following morning.”

Career Moves

Well-Known CNN Business Correspondent’s Departure Becomes Official

CNN Digital correspondent Paul La Monica announced in December he had been laid off. In a tweet, La Monica said he would keep working until early March. The veteran journalist, who covered business and finance for CNN, has been a fixture of the network for over a decade, providing insights and analysis on some of the most significant financial news stories of our time. In a tweet, La Monica posted, “A much needed break to recharge after 21+ years! I feel awful for my amazing colleagues who are losing their jobs. But don’t cry for me. I’ll be fine. Now it’s time to get back to work!” Matt Quinn, a senior technology editor at CNN Business was also laid off in December as part of a round of cuts by the network.

ABC News Names New Weekday Anchor

ABC News has named Ravi Baichwal, the former weekend evening anchor, as its new weekday anchor. Baichwal has been working with ABC for over a decade. Before joining ABC, Baichwal was an anchor, host, and reporter at CTV National News.

CNN Politics Taps Paul LeBlanc as New Breaking News Editor

CNN Politics has named Paul LeBlanc as its new Breaking News Editor. LeBlanc previously served as a reporter in the CNN Politics bureau in Washington DC and will now oversee the network’s breaking news coverage. LeBlanc has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Elon University in North Carolina and a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (

Insider Taps Rising Star Esme Mazzeo as Entertainment Reporter

Insider promotes Esme Mazzeo to an entertainment reporter. Mazzeo joined Insider in 2023 as a TV and entertainment fellow and moved to become a junior entertainment reporter last year. Mazzeo began her career freelancing and was a features writer at Static Media. She was a TV writer at Bustle Media Group. (


Washington Post and Headspace App Partner to Offer Bundle Subscription

The Washington Post is making a push into one of its newest offerings: wellness coverage. Last September, the Post announced it was debuting a health and wellness hub called “Well+Being”. Broken into five categories (food, fitness, mind, body and life), Well+Being has eight reporters and writers contributing to the vertical — an expansion from just one wellness reporter and editor on the lifestyle desk. The move came at a time when more publishers are entering the space. Last April, Fortune announced “Fortune Well” underwritten by CVS. The Post has begun offering a subscription bundle to one of its wellness coverage offerings, a meditation app called “Headspace.”

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