CNN’s New Chief Executive Praises Israel-Hamas War Coverage as ‘Basically Great’

By A.J. Katz 

Profile picture of Mark Thompson

Mark Thompson is starting his tenure as the CEO and editor in chief of CNN at an extraordinary time — two days after the militant group Hamas launched a surprise attack against Israel, killing nearly 1,000 Israelis, as of publication time.

This represents the second time in as many years that new leadership takes hold as a geopolitical conflict is breaking out. Russia invaded Ukraine last year (February 2022), shortly after Jeff Zucker resigned as CNN president and not long before before Chris Licht officially accepted the CNN CEO role. The network’s ratings soared during that time, as CNN viewing has traditionally skyrocketed from viewers who don’t typically watch the news but do so when a major breaking news event transpires.

The network will certainly see an uptick in viewership from Saturday through the present as well. We’ll know more for sure when final Nielsen live-plus-same day data for this past weekend arrive on Tuesday.


On his first CNN Monday morning editorial call, the former BBC director-general and New York Times chief executive remarked that the network’s coverage of the Hamas-Israel conflict has been “basically great.”

According to the New York Times, Thompson touched on a key journalistic challenge: What to cover, what not to cover, and how to cover it. For instance, Thompsons wants CNN consumers to understand what Hamas is, who they are, and what their goals were in the terrorist attack.

Thompson added he wants CNN journalists to remain fair, but not “get distracted by complicated arguments about balance or whataboutism or false equivalency.”

According to CNN’s in-house media reporter Oliver Darcy, Thompson said that he has started to get a sense of “the spirit of CNN” during trips to the network’s offices over the last few weeks. “Honestly, it has been really heartening. Given the shocks and uncertainties of the past two years, I was braced for cynicism and suspicion,” he said. “Instead, I feel I met a group of tough and amazingly focused and enthusiastic people. People who still believe in CNN and its mission 100%. People who now want to get on with the future. And so do I.”

While Thompson is certainly pleased with the journalism he’s seen from his colleagues over these past several days, CNN the business has more than its fair share of problems, and Thompson will be forced to tackle them.

For one, there’s the TV versus digital dilemma.

“TV is also too dominant at CNN and digital, too marginal,” Thompson also told staff on his first Monday call. “We have some real talent and bright creative spots on the digital side, but despite all the hard work, our digital products today lag well behind the current state of the art.”

Thompson also told staffers why he “chose to do this job,” saying it’s because “the world needs news it can trust more than ever.” He said that he believes CNN is well-positioned to deliver it, and argued that “there are plenty of news organizations” such as The New York Times, that “bring the news to elite audiences.” He added, “CNN was founded to bring it to everyone.”