Late on a Monday afternoon in June, members of CNN’s elite investigations team were summoned to a fourth-floor room in the network’s glassy headquarters in Midtown Manhattan.
According to nytimes.com:
Questions linger about the way CNN handled the publication of the story and the retraction. The network’s swift and severe response drew coverage throughout the media world, and prompted some journalists to question whether CNN had bowed to political pressure and overreacted on a story it has never explicitly said was wrong. Instead, the network maintains there had been unacceptable breakdowns in the newsroom’s internal review process.
In interviews with The New York Times, more than half a dozen CNN staff members, including three with direct knowledge of the investigative unit’s operations, provided previously unreported details about the publication of the story and the fallout from its retraction. Citing fear of retribution, the people requested anonymity to discuss sensitive internal information.
In the weeks since the story was retracted, the investigative team has been reshaped and redirected. Its members were told they should not report on perhaps the most compelling political story of the year: potential ties between the Trump administration and Russia. That subject is now largely handled by CNN’s reporting team in Washington. The political whizzes of KFile, a group of Internet-savvy reporters poached from BuzzFeed that was untainted by the retraction, were transferred out of the investigative team.
The remaining team members have resumed publishing, but with a narrower reporting scope; they now focus on topics less glamorous than Mr. Trump’s potential ties to Russia, like the opioid crisis and the environment.
Created to enhance CNN’s brand, the group had instead left it bruised, and the mistakes intensified the onslaught of attacks against CNN from Mr. Trump. Looming over the newsroom was a pending $85 billion takeover of CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, by AT&T, a deal requiring Justice Department approval that some White House aides considered a potential form of leverage against the network and its president, Jeffrey A. Zucker.
CNN said its commitment to aggressive reporting remains undiminished, and other anchors and correspondents have continued to break stories about the Trump administration and Russia. Late last month the network revealed an email from a Trump campaign aide discussing a potential meeting with the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, during last year’s presidential race.
“For 37 years, CNN has done award winning investigative work that has led to fundamental changes at some of the country’s most important institutions,” CNN said in a statement. “This year, CNN has gone even further, devoting additional time, talent and resources to an expanded investigative team. While there have been lessons learned along the way, one thing has remained constant — our unwavering commitment to this type of work at a time when it has never been more important.”
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