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A year and a half after the termination of Chris Cuomo left the hour open, CNN has found a new 9 p.m. anchor.
Kaitlan Collins, currently the co-anchor of the channel’s CNN This Morning, will officially take over the hour. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and Collins announced the promotion at the Warner Bros. Discovery upfront Wednesday morning in a video message.
Collins of course moderated CNN’s town hall with former President Donald Trump last week. While the town hall proved controversial, with a seemingly pro-Trump audience signaling approval of some of his more outrageous comments, CNN CEO Chris Licht defended it in a meeting with employees the next morning saying that America was “well served” by the event.
He also heaped praise on Collins “for what I can only call a masterful performance last night,” Licht said on the call. “I couldn’t be more proud of her and the team that supported us on the ground and back home. It’s tough to imagine anyone navigating such a tricky assignment with more ease than Kaitlan. She asked tough questions, followed up, fact-checked, fact-checked again in real-time — and as you can see, that was not an easy feat.”
It is not immediately clear where Collins’ promotion leaves the morning show, which launched just six months ago with Collins, Don Lemon and Poppy Harlow as co-anchors. Lemon was ousted by CNN last month.
In a memo to CNN staff Wednesday, Licht said that Harlow will lead the show, with a rotating cast of guest co-hosts.
“We will have more information and announcements to share in the months ahead but in the meantime CTM is in good hands with Poppy,” Licht wrote.
In fact, it was exactly a year ago at WBD’s inaugural upfront that Licht first announced his intention to be a “disruptor” in the morning show segment. With Lemon’s departure and Collins’ promotion, Licht and CNN will have to forge a new path in the time period.
Also at the upfront Wednesday, Licht announced a new on-air graphics package, which will debut on CNN next month. “I think you can see it’s a significant improvement. It’s clean, modern, and very easy to look at,” he said.
Licht also took a subtle dig at brands like Vice and BuzzFeed News, telling the crowd of media buyers that “through our newsletters, audio and podcast offerings, we bring decades of production and journalism experience that can help fill the void left by vanishing digital-only brands.”
Read Licht’s memo:
To my CNN colleagues,
I’m very happy to let you know that Kaitlan Collins will be announced as the anchor of our 9pm hour during today’s Warner Bros. Discovery Upfront presentation.
Kaitlan will begin anchoring the 9pm regularly in June. In her new program, officially launching later this summer, Kaitlan will showcase why she’s one of the top reporters and interviewers in the game. She is a smart and gifted journalist who we’ve all seen hold lawmakers and newsmakers accountable. She pushes politicians off their talking points, gets real answers – and as everyone who’s worked with her knows – breaks a lot of news.
Every night, she’ll bring fresh reporting that adds new perspective to the biggest stories of the day. Kaitlan will expose uncovered angles and challenge conventional wisdom to make sure viewers are seeing a story from every side. When she doesn’t know the answer, she asks – and she won’t stop until she gets them.
I know there will be a lot of interest in working with Kaitlan and this new show. We will be reviewing internal candidates and opening up a nationwide search for an executive producer to work with our development team to build this program and help it take shape.
Kaitlan will transition off CNN This Morning, which will be led by Poppy Harlow alongside a rotation of CNN guest anchors. We will have more information and announcements to share in the months ahead but in the meantime CTM is in good hands with Poppy.
Please join me in congratulating Kaitlan on this exciting new role and challenge.
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