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CNN’s Jim Walton to Staff: ‘Be Proud of your Special Contribution to CNN’

Walton_12.18.jpgCNN Worldwide president Jim Walton sent a year-end note to the CNN staff this morning thanking them for all their contributions. CNN, the original and for more than 15 years the only nationally recognized American news channel, has fallen behind in some key ratings measurements this year and has taken a beating in the press for it. But Walton rallied the troops laying out the company’s accomplishments: “Despite the worst economic climate in 75 years, CNN will finish 2009 with double-digit profit growth for the sixth consecutive year,” he writes, adding we “will end 2009 with more employees than we had at the start of the year.” And Walton gave credit where credit was due:

The re-branded HLN, which caught fire and is the year’s fastest-growing brand in cable news; the re-designed CNN.com, now with enhanced video and deeper news and brand offerings; and the re-imagined CNN International, featuring more analysis, connectivity, perspective and an entirely new prime time line-up.

As for CNN/U.S., Walton does not dwell on the challenges in primetime but points to the “memorable new chapters” in programs including CNN Heroes.

“The year ahead will bring challenges,” writes Walton, “some carried over from 2009 and others brand new.”

The full memo after the jump…


From: On Behalf Of Walton, Jim
Sent: Thursday, December 17, 2009 11:28 AM
Subject: Note to Staff

December 17, 2009

To: CNN Staff
From: Jim Walton

Because as professionals and as an organization we are wired to look forward rather than back; because time passes quickly and it’s easy to forget all of the moments that make a year; and because it’s just as important to savor accomplishments as it is to collect them, I want to close 2009 with a reminder of what you did that set CNN apart and helped us win.

First, some breaking news: Despite the worst economic climate in 75 years, CNN will finish 2009 with double-digit profit growth for the sixth consecutive year. Our collective commitment to cost management has helped us achieve our most profitable year ever. You did that. And it was hard. But you understood the importance to our future of weathering this storm and you did your part, and more, to see us through it.

We presented consumers with three compelling, new CNN experiences: the re-branded HLN, which caught fire and is the year’s fastest-growing brand in cable news; the re-designed CNN.com, now with enhanced video and deeper news and brand offerings; and the re-imagined CNN International, featuring more analysis, connectivity, perspective and an entirely new prime time line-up. I liken each of these efforts to changing the tires on a moving car. But you did it. Congratulations.

Our work on emerging platforms generated a new kind and level of buzz around the CNN brand. The Facebook partnerships, the iPhone app and an exponentially higher profile in the social media universe connected us to new audiences and had them talking to, with and about us. Great stuff. And again, all you.

This year we put proper emphasis on how we work with each other; invest in each other; learn from and listen to each other; translate it to our culture; and reflect it in our content. Our people initiatives added work to days that were already full and exercised muscles we’ve frankly neglected. But we’re better managers of people, resources and responsibilities today than we were a year ago, two years ago or five years ago. And it’s all your doing.

Fine-tuning our structure to reflect and support what we are now and will become, as opposed to what we used to be, continued across the CNN portfolio. We added staff in areas where we were thin and where we will grow, and will end 2009 with more employees than we had at the start of the year. Your judgment, planning and vision did that, too.

Finally, we continued to deliver the quality journalism that is the promise, signature and soul of CNN around the world. We brought 12 new CNN shows to air in 2009, an extraordinary feat in any year. Our colleagues at CNN/U.S. added memorable new chapters to the in America and CNN Heroes stories, and CNN journalists led from Iran and Iraq to Copenhagen and Mexico. But what’s really important to me is that we did work that was relevant, current, essential and valued; work that made a difference in peoples’ lives; and work that was worthy of the CNN imprimatur. I can’t give you a higher compliment than that. You did it, and you’ve earned it.

The year ahead will bring challenges, some carried over from 2009 and others brand new. I’m confident in our ability to meet what comes our way as long as we continue to think like owners, act like leaders and put good journalism first. I’ll promise you this: Whatever we do in 2010, we’ll do it together.

Enjoy the holidays. Remember the people who make your work life possible and your life meaningful. And be proud of your special contribution to CNN. I am grateful to each of you.

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