Robin Meade, entire Atlanta HLN news operations nixed amid CNN layoffs

Robin Meade on the set of "Morning Express" at HLN in 2019. HLN

Credit: Jeremy Freeman

Credit: Jeremy Freeman

Robin Meade on the set of "Morning Express" at HLN in 2019. HLN

HLN as a news operation is no more.

CNN parent company Warner Bros. Discovery has nixed the entire HLN operation, based at CNN Center in Atlanta. In a memo to staff on Thursday, CNN chief Chris Licht said HLN’s live programming will end this week.

Licht let go several paid contributors on Wednesday and more full-time staff across CNN operations on Thursday. A specific number has not been released, but CNN’s Reliable Sources’ columnist Oliver Darcy mentioned “hundreds of staffers” and wrote, “morale is low and a feeling of apprehension has saturated CNN’s newsrooms.”

HLN, which Ted Turner started as CNN2 and later Headline News in 1982, has morphed over the years from a quick-hit 24/7 news operation to supplement the parent CNN cable network into a mix of true crime and news.

Atlanta-based morning host Robin Meade was the last key personality standing, although HLN did run weekend news programming with Susan Hendricks. Meade was the weekday morning host for more than 21 years, the longest running morning news anchor in TV history, recently exceeding Matt Lauer’s tenure at NBC’s “Today” show.

Meade, in celebrating her 20th anniversary there, a year ago told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “I always joke, ‘I can’t believe I haven’t been fired yet!’ But I’m very grateful. It is the most surreal experience when someone says, ‘I’ve been watching you since junior high,’ and they’re 30 now! I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the viewers.”

In his memo, Licht acknowledged Meade’s contributions to the network: “I know the HLN audience will miss her and the other HLN talent.”

Meade, on Monday on social media, posted a video wishing her whole staff goodbye: “To the team at HLN and all of you at home waking up with you has been the joy of my life. You are my morning sunshine. Thank you.”

CNN will simulcast its new “CNN This Morning” featuring Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins on HLN, according to Variety. In that story posted Thurday morning, Variety also reported that veteran Atlanta-based reporter Martin Savidge was among those let go. Savidge told CNN’s Darcy, “The ride may be ending but the adventure is not.”

In its early years before the Internet, CNN Headline News would run a repetitive 30-minute news wheel mixing hard news, features and sports. In 2001, the network began using multiple anchors and cluttered the screen with a scrolling news ticker and added Meade to mornings.

In 2005, CNN Headline News launched a prime-time lineup of opinion-based shows. Two shows ended up breaking out: conservative talk radio host Glenn Beck and former prosecutor Nancy Grace, who was based out of Atlanta.

The network changed its name to HLN in 2008. In the early 2010s, Grace gave the network record ratings covering the Casey Anthony trial. In the mid-2010s, the network’s new boss Albie Hecht tried to draw younger viewers by marketing HLN as “the first TV home for the social media generation.” That effort was short-lived.

Grace left in 2016 and in recent years, HLN dropped all live programming outside of the morning slot. Instead, the network became known for airing copious repeats of “Forensic Files” and a few original true crime shows. HLN’s true-crime programming will now be run by Warner Bros. Discovery executive Kathleen Finch and incorporated into the company’s ID cable network.

A clue that the end was near was when HLN aired “West Wing” repeats this past Thanksgiving weekend, the first time the network had run scripted programming.

Licht’s memo Thursday also noted some “reorganizing” of CNN International which will remove one 5 pm. program, which will now feature a simulcast from the regular CNN feed. The memo also mentioned “restructuring across some of our beats, realigning resources to staff up in some units and in more areas around the country... Many of the staff reductions in Newsgathering will be offset by the addition of new roles.”

For CNN producers and programming staff, he noted some combining of dayside and weekend lineups and general reductions across the board. He also mentioned net cuts in marketing. CNN digital made some tweaks earlier in the fall and “as a result, there are no further impacts in this process.”


2020: Robin Meade gives HLN a nice morning boost - Interview and profile

2014: HLN re-brands itself to attract millennials

2018: HLN dumps three anchors, brings all live programming back to Atlanta

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