CNN chief Jim Walton is leaving the news organization, according to the Associated Press.
Walton, who was president of CNN for 10 years, said the company needs new leadership as the network struggles through some of its poorest ratings. CNN’s U.S. network, which is the most visible part of the business, is currently in third-place behind Fox News and MSNBC in primetime.
Walton informed his staff members of his resignation in an email note Friday morning. Walton said he told his boss, Turner Broadcasting Chairman Paul Kent, that he’s been thinking of leaving for the first few months of the year. He said he will stay with the company until the end of the year while the organization searches for his successor.
“There’s always pressure. I’ve been doing this a long time and CNN has had its ups and downs, like all companies have had ups and downs. I feel really strongly about a number of parts of this company. We’re having a really strong year internationally and in mobile. It’s clear there’s a lot of spotlight on CNN’s U.S. performance and it’s reasonable that there is that spotlight.”
Some of CNN’s primetime shows have dropped 40 percent, as the organization has had its worst-ever ratings for a second quarter. The drop was particularly noticeable in May when CNN was facing competition from broadcast networks during a slow news period. Its ratings were also being compared to ratings from last year, when the news organization was covering the aftermath of the death of Osama bin Laden.
Walton began working at CNN in 1981, ripping paper scripts off wire machines and operating the TelePrompter for the network’s news anchors. He became president in 2003, at a time when the organization was underperforming, and tripled its earnings.
“I think this company needs some new thinking. I’ve been doing this job I’m in now for 10 years and I’m ready for a change,” Jim Walton said.