It was the last thing I expected to wake up to, and I'm still not
entirely sure how to react.
This morning, CNN U.S. President Jon Klein announced that Ed Litvak --
Executive Producer of American Morning, my former supervisor,
the man who fired me two weeks ago -- is resigning. He's leaving both
the show and the network under circumstances which, even to the least
cynical, would seem slightly suspect. The early inside line is that
he's ready to do something that doesn't involve waking up at two in
the morning, and Klein's official eulogy does little more than pump
the requisite amount of platitudinal sunshine up the ass of the
soon-to-be dearly departed without really shedding any light on
why Ed is out.
You'd be a fool though not to take the timing, given recent events,
Last week, I wrote a column that not only described in detail my final
conversations with Ed Litvak as a CNN employee -- his decision to
summarily terminate my employment as a producer, supposedly for
maintaining a blog on my own time -- but also excoriated the
management of American Morning and CNN in general. I did this
because I believed at the time, and still do, that the once-venerated
reputation of CNN -- to say nothing of its counterparts in TV news --
has been insouciantly stripped away through one dubious decision after
another. I came to CNN four years ago because it was, in my mind, the
gold standard of television news; I left believing something else
entirely, and how I left has no bearing whatsoever on the
issues confronting the network at the moment.
In the week since first publishing my article online, it's made the
rounds to dozens of news outlets: I've been interviewed by NPR,
Sirius Radio, The New York Times, The New York Observer and The Miami
Herald; the story itself has appeared in The Huffington Post, The New
York Daily News and on websites around the globe. A lot of people
suddenly know Ed
Litvak's name, and among those who have an opinion one way or the
other, its connotation may not be a positive one.
I wasn't sure how I felt about such a possibility to begin with; now
that Ed is being forced out of CNN, it really leaves a lot for me to
ponder. And make no mistake, Ed is being forced out. He was
appointed EP of American Morning in August of 2006, which
means that he likely signed a two year contract at the very least.
It's only February of 2008 -- that's damn early to tell someone under
contract that he or she won't be renewed.
Although Ed's no doubt walking away with the severance that I was
flatly denied -- he'll get what was left on his initial deal if
nothing else -- I can certainly empathize: he got screwed by CNN. The
irony would be delicious if the whole situation weren't so unfortunate
for all involved. The last thing I'm going to do right now is gloat or
gravedance, regardless of whether Ed Litvak was wholly to blame for
the decision to fire me.
The question is simple though: Was this a case of post hoc ergo
propter hoc? Did what happened to me two weeks ago -- the firing
itself or the publicity that followed -- have anything at all to do
with Ed's own "resignation?"
There are a few possibilities:
The most vocal of my supporters throughout this miasma would probably
like to believe that the CNN big shots never authorized firing me and
are now making Ed pay dearly for getting rid of an irreplacable doll
like myself; needless to say, this is wrong on all counts (although
that kind of thinking is certainly appreciated). Ed may have been the
one to swing the axe but the execution order was likely a committee
ruling that involved at least a manager or two somewhere above his pay
grade. Is it possible that a decision was made to fire me and Ed made
the "mistake" of not handling it better -- in other words, not
offering me something that might presumably encourage me to keep my
big mouth shut? Could be. An offer of money in return for the signing
of a non-disclosure agreement -- considering that I was a blogger with
a relatively large audience, even at the time -- would've been a wise
move (though one I honestly can't say I'd have agreed to). It's a fact
that my dismissal and subsequent decision to speak my mind about it
and what I believe are the problems with American Morning
brought scandal to the show and the network, whether you agree with my
assessment or not. It cast Ed Litvak and the rest of the show's
management team in a bad light and drew negative publicity to a show
that's fighting for every rating point it can get. In other words, my
comments -- however ineffectual in the big picture -- came at a time
when AM really didn't need them. If that's the case, was Ed
nothing more than a scapegoat? Did upper-management punish him for not
knowing that I'd spent the past year-and-a-half writing outside of CNN
in the first place -- for being ignorant of what the people right
under his nose were up to?
Back to those ratings though, because they could be the key -- since
they typically are. It's true that AM's numbers are
less-than-stellar, despite the hard work of a lot of talented
rank-and-file people behind the scenes. Maybe Ed's time was simply up;
he'd given it his best shot and hadn't fully delivered, so Klein wrote
up some glowing prose about all his efforts and sent him on his way.
If that's true, then the timing of this morning's announcement is
nothing more than a hell of a coincidence, albeit one that once again
proves CNN management apparently has its head firmly in its ass, since
people now can't help but ask if Ed Litvak's ouster has any connection
to mine. If this is indeed a Klein mandate, you'd think he would've at
least waited a few more weeks; doing this now looks bad for Ed and for
CNN. Then again, Klein is the same guy who canceled Crossfire
because Jon Stewart said it was a ridiculous show. (He was right by
the way.) Did my calling attention to the problems on the show force
Klein to take a closer look at what was going on there? If so, that
would seem to vindicate me, as Ed's firing proves my claim that the
show is a mess.
Many of the American Morning staff believed for some time
that Ed was on his way out; maybe the fallout from my dismissal was
the final nail in his coffin -- what drove him into "early
Or maybe not.
Like I said, we'll probably never know.
My only hope is that Ed Litvak's departure from American
Morning will somehow be good for the show, although I'm inclined
to think that until someone puts an arm around Jon Klein, writes
something nice about him, then pushes him out the door,
nothing's going to change. It'll just be more of the same nonsense.
Whoever replaces Ed Litvak though, I wish him or her the best.
You've got a great staff and a great pedigree -- now go make us all proud.