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Can smirky CNN shed its liberal bias and win back viewers?

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CNN and its Trump-hating anchors and free-falling ratings are in the middle of a major retool, but can it even be saved?

Viewers are fleeing in droves. If it were up for re-election, CNN would be Liz Cheney.

The news network just dumped media critic Brian Stelter’s show, and more changes are reportedly on the way to move away from its 24-hour bashing of Donald Trump.

With a new boss, Chris Licht, network executives want CNN to return to its breaking news roots and steer away from opinion shows and a never-ending stream of liberal guests.

But it remains to be seen whether CNN can find a niche and still be relevant. The network suddenly killed its streaming service earlier this year and has suffered a precipitous fall in ratings and revenue.

Fox News is the dominant cable news outlet and gets about twice the viewership of CNN and MSNBC. On some nights, CNN and MSNBC combined can’t beat Fox. But CNN continues to suffer the most ratings damage.

For example, Alex Wagner’s prime-time debut on MSNBC this week trounced “CNN Tonight” in the 9 p.m. hour, drawing about 2 million total viewers compared with CNN’s 866,000, according to Nielsen ratings.

But Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News dominated with more than 3 million viewers. Hannity also easily won the key 25-54 demo, which is most prized by advertisers.

CNN really began its ratings plunge after Joe Biden took over the White House yet the network continued to focus on Trump in a desperate attempt to go back to its heyday.

The all-Trump hatefest did not work, as viewers apparently began to tire of anchors like Jake Tapper and Stelter, both viewed by conservatives as left-wing stooges.

After CNN’s chairman, Jeff Zucker, was forced out because of a romantic relationship with another executive, the new network honchos decided to revamp the cable outlet, getting rid of the constant “breaking news” banners and booking more conservative guests.

The return to a more centrist outlook doomed Stelter, a non-stop Trump basher who lost a whopping one-third of his target audience over the last year. The cancellation of his Sunday show “Reliable Sources” was the first move of an expected major shakeup by CNN’s new corporate parent, Warner Bros. Discovery. CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin also recently departed the network.

The canning of Stelter has triggered angst among liberals who viewed him as a champion of their non-stop pursuit of Trump. Stelter supporters viewed his firing as a troubling sign that CNN is abandoning its targeting of Trump.

Where does that leave CNN? Can the network survive without the smug, dour faces of its familiar roster of Trump antagonists?

Where will Elizabeth Warren, Katherine Clark, Marty Walsh and Michelle Wu go to establish their woke credentials and get softball questions? Can Wolf Blitzer go back to being a gruff, hard newsman?

Most partisan viewers will go to MSNBC or Fox. But there is a void for CNN to fill. It still can relive the heights of its journalism like when it reported live from Desert Storm and was must-watch TV.

It will be a long and painful road, but CNN can return to those glory days.

CNN Center, the headquarters for CNN, in downtown Atlanta.
CNN Center, the headquarters for CNN, in downtown Atlanta. (AP)

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