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The paradox of Jeff Zucker

In my last column for Columbia Journalism Review, I wrote about how CNN's President was caught on tape helping Donald Trump during the 2016 election. Since that post, I have talked to people who know Jeff Zucker and they described the good and the bad. One industry veteran thinks Zucker is the best person for the job and trusts him thoroughly, while acknowledging the destructive nature of commercial broadcast news. Another former CNN employee described Zucker's obsession with the ratings. In this piece, I try to square the various opinions. I conclude he's paradoxical, like many producers I know from my time in cable news.


This week's debate was a reference point when I talked to people this week. A former colleague of Zucker's defended CNN's analysis, citing the Fact Checker segments with Daniel Dale. Now a CNN reporter, Dale is invaluable to correct the record in real time. But I think the bar has been lowered so far, that even self-aware producers give too much credit to the state of TV news. I thought CNN's coverage was standard outrage TV, ultimately motivated by the need to profit. Seasoned political journalists clutched their pearls at the sight of an outrageous politician doing outrageous things.


Now, I understand the challenge. But the network continually fails to recognize that there are two candidates in this election. CNN let Donald Trump dominate the narrative. No, journalists can't ignore his behavior altogether, but they shouldn't ignore Joe Biden, either, whether it's to praise or criticize him. In the end, that is a disservice to voters and this election. We ought to call on CNN (and all of the commercial networks) to focus on covering these candidates and their policies appropriately and thoroughly, rather than treating the election as a way to increase their bank accounts.


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David Kanyan
Oct 26, 2020

I consider myself a human and a pragmatic more than I consider myself as a registered republican or a former registered democrat and libertarian. I have a podcast called Dumbing it Down with Dave. I try not to lean left or right, and walk forward to the truth. I'm also trying to get to the root cause of issues as opposed to discussing end of the timeline band aids and finger pointing blame. I find that I'm alone alot in these thoughts and points of view. I'm just a barely high school graduated individual trying to make my way through a very angry and dysfunctional world. How have you found your life personally and professionally since you essentially "came ou…

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