Reviews | What The Jeff Zucker Chapter Should Teach CNN

Not that anyone outside of the news media cares. To most Americans, the vast majority of whom don’t watch CNN, “Zucker” is either a misspelled lollipop or maybe a brand of German marmalade.

But in DC, New York and Los Angeles, “Zucker” was the undisputed news king, who got his break on NBC’s “Today” show and rose to the top of NBC Universal before taking the CNN check, and so on. this is the news that really matters.

And it was supposed to be all the more mind-blowing as Zucker just two months earlier had told presenter Chris Cuomo to clean up his desk after it became clear that Cuomo, while working for CNN, had advised his brother, Andrew, then Democratic Governor of New York. , on how to deal with allegations of sexual harassment by subordinates. Now Zucker was following him to the door.

No one thinks Zucker quit just because he didn’t report his consensual relationship. It’s just as likely that he was removed from his position to empty the bridges of the upcoming merger of CNN’s parent company, WarnerMedia, and Discovery Inc., whose CEO, David Zaslav, recently called CNN a ” information leader on the left”.

But what unfolded on CNN when Zucker’s train pulled out was – what else could you call it? – annoying. Spare us the almost tearful testimony from CNN anchors who could barely keep their chins from shaking as one by one told viewers how sad, lost and devastated they were by Zucker’s sudden departure.

Zucker, a lifelong television man, was their leader, their anchor, their cheerleader, their savior, their helm, their therapist, their news muse and their ATM. It’s crushing – perhaps for a Muppet or two – when the elites mourn the loss of a best friend as the country is on the verge of collapse due to covid; inflation; labor, food and supply shortages; Gun violence; and, not coincidentally, the widening gap between rich and poor. Oh, and rising tensions with Russia.

What happened to “no crying in baseball”, the emotional principle operating in the newsrooms of my youth and even 10 years ago when I was (briefly) co-anchor of CNN? When I was told that the president of CNN who hired me was going to be fired, I burst into tears (in my office) because I knew in that moment that my own future within the network was doomed. to failure. I cried a lot for good reason over the next few months, but I didn’t moan on TV, for heaven’s sake, like some did about Zucker.

It was enough to make me wonder what happened to CNN’s spine. I can only assume that Zucker is what happened. He was certainly loved by those who prospered under his leadership. Maybe he was the best boss we ever had. But he also guided the network away from the direct, factual news programming that CNN founder Ted Turner had envisioned and toward a more personalized, interpretive style of reporting that had a price in a deeply divided nation. Not all CNN shows have gone this way, I hasten to add, but enough to keep audiences drifting away. At the start of 2022, CNN averaged 548,000 viewers during the week of January 3, down 80% from the same time in 2021.

The Zucker chapter recalls the yawning chasm between the way average Americans live and the media elite. It is a chasm that has been growing for years. Not much overlap left. While the great unwashed struggle to survive amid social and economic turmoil, presenters and many correspondents are generally comfortable millionaires living in an immaculate bubble, communing with colleagues and other elites, escaping to the Hamptons, Nantucket and other swanky watering holes to avoid germs and attend rallies where their elbows are unlikely to bump into the kind of people who voted for Donald Trump.

Many in my company don’t understand why Joe Rogan’s podcast remains so popular or why Fox News continues to crush CNN in the ratings. But that’s how a big outlet loses track of an audience who’s already eaten out of their hand – and is the very last to know.

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