CNN's President Steps Down Amid Poor Ratings

Jim Walton, head of CNN Worldwide, has announced he will step down at the end of the year.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. After more than three decades at CNN, the company's president is stepping down. His resignation is an admission of the challenges facing the profitable but poorly rated network. NPR's David Folkenflik has that story.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: CNN president Jim Walton says the network needs a new leader with different experiences and a new plan. Here's Jeff Bewkes, his boss, chairman of parent company Time Warner, on "The Charlie Rose Show."

JEFF BEWKES: Whenever there's breaking news, we have high ratings, we have pretty good shows that people tend to be satisfied with. We have more people tuning into CNN on an average day than tune into any of the other news channels.

CHARLIE ROSE: Why is that?

BEWKES: Because there's more people coming for a trusted source of news.

FOLKENFLIK: The cable landscape is dominated by opinion shows, but CNN's brand is based on the idea of news unadulterated by ideology at a time when viewers are rewarding the conservative-leaning shows on Fox News and the liberal tilting programs on MSNBC. Last summer, CNN's top news executive, Mark Whitaker, told NPR his network has strayed off course.

MARK WHITAKER: A big challenge for CNN now is to really decide who its audience is and to really focus on doing the best job possible for that audience, and not think that it can be all things to all people.

FOLKENFLIK: CNN makes hundreds of millions of dollars a year in subscriber fees and advertising revenue, but Bewkes promised investors to put the network on a tighter leash. Anchors have been juggled without clear success as prime time shows featuring Campbell Brown, John King, Soledad O'Brien, and Elliot Spitzer have gone by the wayside. In June, CNN botched its coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the major health care overhaul by wrongly reporting the law had been ruled unconstitutional.

It came as an additional blow to many news staffers. This year, CNN has experienced its worst ratings in a decade. Walton will step down at the end of the year.

David Folkenflik, NPR News, New York.

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