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CNN's managing editor Whitaker to leave network

(Reuters) - CNN's managing editor, Mark Whitaker, said he will be leaving the cable network, two months after CNN tapped Jeff Zucker, the former CEO of NBC Universal, to be the news channel's worldwide chief.

Whitaker, in a memo to CNN staff, wrote that Zucker "deserves his own team and management structure and the freedom to communicate one clear vision to the staff." Reuters obtained a copy of the memo on Tuesday.

CNN, which is owned by Time Warner Inc, has been struggling with poor ratings. Its prime-time ratings hit historical lows last year, losing out to both Fox and MSNBC.

Whitaker called Zucker, who moved to CNN earlier this month, a "leader with his own forceful ideas about where to take CNN's reporting, programming and brand."

Zucker and Whitaker had worked together at NBC, where Whitaker was a senior vice president and Washington bureau chief at NBC News.

Whitaker has been managing editor of CNN since January 2011. He helped attract talent to CNN such as globe-trotting food personality Anthony Bourdain and documentary maker Morgan Spurlock. He also previously served as the editor of Newsweek from 1998 to 2006.

Since its beginnings as the first 24-hour cable news network, CNN has committed to a nonpartisan approach to programming, a position that some have described as a "view from nowhere" and blamed for the network's ratings erosion.

CNN has lagged Fox and MSNBC in prime-time viewership for more than a year, drawing fewer than 1 million U.S. prime-time viewers compared with about 2.7 million for Fox and about 1.5 million viewers for MSNBC, according to ratings data.

CNN now appears to be attempting a makeover. Zucker has been ushering in a wave of talent changes. The network announced on Tuesday that Chris Cuomo, a former news anchor on ABC's "Good Morning America" and "20/20," will have a "major role" in a new morning show on CNN.

Jake Tapper, a former chief White House correspondent for ABC will also have a new weekday program on CNN.

(Reporting By Liana B. Baker; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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