Jon Klein, president of CNN/U.S., is out at CNN amid a restructuring at the top of the company that will culminate with the creation of a new executive vice president and managing editor reporting directly to Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide.
Ken Jautz, who previously ran CNN sister network HLN, will move into Klein's position heading up CNN/U.S. as executive vice president. Scot Safon, formerly chief marketing officer for CNN Worldwide, will replace Jautz, becoming executive vice president of HLN. Both appointments are effective immediately and both men report to Walton.
Walton broke the news to staffer Friday morning.
"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," wrote Walton "on has made important contributions to the CNN story, and he leaves with our respect and friendship, and with my sincere thanks."
Walton said that he is looking at internal and external candidates to fill the managing editor role.
"We have some folks in-house who will certainly be considered," said Walton during a conference call with reporters on Friday. "We are also going to recruit and look outside. This is a big job and there's no doubt in my mind that we'll find somebody great for it."
Klein's ouster comes in the wake of a ratings free fall in primetime. He has attempted to stem the hemorrhage, recruiting disgraced New York governor Eliot Spitzer and conservative columnist Kathleen Parker to co-host a topical 8 p.m. hour. Parker/Spitzer bows Oct. 4. Klein also wooed Piers Morgan to the network to take over the 9 p.m. slot from Larry King, who has fallen to third at 9 p.m. behind Fox News Channel and MSNBC.
Walton acknowledged CNN's primetime failures.
"There have been a number of stories over the last few months about the end of CNN and the doom and gloom," he said. "I understand it. Our primetime stars are in many people's opinion the face of CNN."
Reached by MCN, Klein said that his departure, which he described as "amicable as you can have in these situations," was precipitated by the new management structure.
"They want to bring in a managing editor who is going to report to Jim and oversee editorial for all the platforms," said Klein. "That was not a set up that I agreed with."
Asked if he thought the network's primetime ratings contributed to his departure, Klein said, "I don't know. But I don't think so. We had hatched our plans to address those issues."