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Jon Klein out as CNN/U.S. President

Breaking: CNN/U.S. president Jon Klein is leaving the company, the network confirms.  HLN chief Ken Jautz will replace Klein at the parent network as executive VP of CNN/U.S., with CNN CMO Scot Safon taking over HLN.

“Jon has made important contributions to the CNN story, and he leaves with our respect and friendship, and with my sincere thanks,” wrote CNN Worldwide president Jim Walton in a memo to employees his morning.

“The CNN I’m leaving today is demonstrably stronger than the one I inherited almost six years ago – both editorially and financially,” wrote Klein in a memo to staff. “That is a tribute to your passion for telling stories that matter, your talent for uncovering the truth without layering on destructive bluster or partisan spin, and your willingness to indulge my appetite for innovation and change.”

Klein’s departure and Jautz’s hire was first reported this morning by FTVLive.

The timing of Klein’s departure is strange, given that the new primetime lineup he helped design is yet to debut on the network. The first of those programs, “Parker Spitzer,” will premiere in early October. Piers Morgan will take over the 9 PM timeslot from Larry King early next year.

Klein had been president of CNN’s U.S. network since 2004, signing a four-year contract extension in 2007. he is the second major news chief to announce his departure in recent weeks. ABC News president David Westin announced he would leave that company earlier this month.

The memos from Walton and Klein are after the jump.

To: CNN Staff

From:     Jim Walton

=======================================================

I have some news to share with you about our executive leadership and how our programming teams are going to work together to ensure we’re prominently featuring CNN’s quality journalism across our multiple platforms.  Two accomplished CNN executives whom most of you know and have worked with are stepping up to new roles, effective immediately.  A third senior leader will be brought on in the role of managing editor to help leverage our newsgathering resources across multiple platforms in a more collaborative way.

Ken Jautz is moving from HLN to CNN/U.S. to run the network as its executive vice president.  Ken is a rarity—a working journalist who is an even better news executive.  The reinvention of HLN is the latest in a string of successes he has led at CNN.  Ken has launched, made profitable and turned around businesses for our news organization, Turner Broadcasting and Time Warner literally around the world.  To his new assignment he brings deep experience as a reporter, both overseas and in the US; a CNN-wide perspective; and relationships from multiple positions within Turner.  Most importantly, he has a demonstrated ability to collaborate and lead strong teams, and a track-record of programming successes.

Scot Safon assumes the executive vice president role at HLN and will run the network. Scot and HLN are in my view an inspired combination.  He is an innovator; HLN is an ideal news and information laboratory.  He is an expert in audience targeting and development; HLN’s audience is young, engaged and growing. And he is a charismatic leader who is passionate about journalism, storytelling and our brand.  As Chief Marketing Officer of CNN Worldwide, Scot has led a dynamic team that has done award-winning marketing, advertising and promotion for CNN, HLN, CNN International and CNN.com.

Additionally, to put our multi-platform advantages more fully to work, we will be naming an executive vice president and managing editor of CNN Worldwide to lead collaboration across all platforms and elevate CNN’s unique journalism and analysis.  A managing editor, with full access to our journalism resources and my mandate to shape and connect our newsgathering across networks, shows, and websites, is a new role for the organization.  Ultimately, the goal is that the kind of front-page reporting and analysis that captures a news event, translates its meaning and shapes the dialogue about the story will continue to emerge in even more prominent and more accessible ways to CNN’s audiences.  The search for this person is currently underway.

Our colleague Jon Klein is leaving CNN.  Jon’s six years as head of CNN/U.S. are reflected in the quality of our coverage of signal news events during his tenure: the tsunami in South Asia, Hurricane Katrina, the 2008 election cycle and the Haiti earthquake, as well as shows like Anderson Cooper 360, The Situation Room and Fareed Zakaria GPS, all of which bear his imprint.  Jon has made important contributions to the CNN story, and he leaves with our respect and friendship, and with my sincere thanks.

We are going into a busy fall and winter with November elections and two new prime time shows on CNN.  Ken, Scot and the new managing editor will impact these and all of the other events ahead, as will you.  My expectation is that our leaders and our new operating discipline will put CNN’s advantages to work where they matter most: for our audience.  Our coverage will be relevant and resonant; will have meaning for millions of people around the world; and it will reflect the qualities that CNN is rightfully famous for: commitment to truth, respect for facts, service to no political agenda and passion for journalism and analysis done right and well.

——————————————————————————————————————-

From Jon Klein:

It is with a tinge of regret tempered by great expectations for the future – yours, mine, and that of the information industry in which we make our careers – that I bid all of you goodbye.

The CNN I’m leaving today is demonstrably stronger than the one I inherited almost six years ago – both editorially and financially. That is a tribute to your passion for telling stories that matter, your talent for uncovering the truth without layering on destructive bluster or partisan spin, and your willingness to indulge my appetite for innovation and change.

CNN has always experienced the vertiginous peaks and valleys of the ratings cycle, compounded these past six years by unprecedented change in news consumption habits. In the midst of all that it’s been gratifying to have led CNN/US to its highest viewership levels ever, during the 2008 elections, and I’m convinced the network is now poised to level out the troughs through the hirings of Eliot Spitzer, Kathleen Parker, and Piers Morgan, three intelligent, magnetic personalities who will join with Anderson Cooper to give viewers a reason to watch CNN in prime time no matter what the news of the day brings.

It’s been a pleasure to watch the transformation of some of our reporters into global news superstars during my time here, as we raised expectations and they blew through them. Anderson, who was anchoring the 7pm broadcast in 2004, is now the best-known and most-respected news reporter on the planet, and deservedly so. Soledad O’Brien, our morning co-anchor back then, is now the pre-eminent African-American journalist in the world, and was recently recognized by the NABJ as Journalist of the Year. Sanjay Gupta earned the moniker of “The World’s Surgeon General” through his heartfelt reporting on myriad dangerous and difficult assignments in which he often was the lone voice of Western journalism, most recently dropping everything when I called to send him to Pakistan’s devastating floods.

We’ve significantly enhanced our ability to engage Americans with the world around them through the addition of the incomparable Fareed Zakaria to our Sunday lineup and, subsequently, to the Time Warner family as a whole.

These past six years have witnessed the birth of the Situation Room as a vibrant new way of relating the day’s events, as well as the rise of the Best Political Team on Television, led so ably by Wolf Blitzer to the pinnacle of political coverage during the historic election of 2008. John King’s unsurpassed political acumen came to vivid life through the Magic Wall, and we made Sunday mornings safe for wit, and for women, when Candy Crowley took over State of the Union.

As a documentary maker at heart, I am especially pleased by the resurgence of our longform programming, which won numerous honors during this period including a Peabody Award and a Columbia DuPont Award for “God’s Warriors,” and a special President’s Emmy last year for our entire body of documentary work. No other network airs as many quality documentaries as CNN – we’re premiering four more outstanding docs in the month ahead – and I salute our tireless producers and reporters for taking their already excellent work to the next level.

Together we amped up innovation on a grand scale. It was so rewarding to conspire with Sue Bunda and our colleagues at CNN.com in launching iReport; to support David Bohrman’s brilliantly conceived YouTube debate; to marry Rick Sanchez’s boundless energy to the endless possibilities of Twitter; to collaborate with Facebook and Foursquare and to champion indefatigable in-house innovators like Alex Wellen, Victor Hernandez, Janelle Rodriguez, Eric Kuhn, and Bethany Swain.

We launched impressive new cross-platform programming initiatives like CNN Heroes (the inspiration of Wendy Walker realized through the perspiration of Kelly Flynn and her team) and Impact Your World, both of which acknowledge that CNN viewers yearn to be part of something larger than themselves. And it was so rewarding to conceive and grow the ambitious Black in America series and its offspring. But even more potentially significant in the long term has been our ability to attract a diverse cadre of talented and energized producers to the In America unit so ably steered by Geraldine Moriba.

To help foster the rise of all these worthwhile new initiatives, while observing firsthand the class with which the legendary Larry King transitioned to the next phase of his remarkable career, has been an experience for which I’m forever grateful.

It has been my privilege to lead the amazing people of CNN/US. I have no doubt that you will continue to play a critical role in explaining, influencing and impacting the world, while having a hell of a lot of fun in the process. My family and I will enjoy watching you do it and rooting for your continued success.

Related:

Jon Klein’s Wishful Thinking

CNN’s Jon Klein to Staff: We Refuse to do the Things that Might Get us a Quick Number or Cater to the Extremes that Would Alienate our Core Viewers

Klein: “We’re Winning The Quality War Already” — And The Ratings Will Follow

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