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Jeff Zucker has been more like Michael Scott as head of NBC followed by CNN

  • "The fact that the average person knows anything about Zucker at all is because he has styled himself to become a character," Melanie McFarland says of the ousted CNN president. "Zucker probably does not see that as a negative estimation. What he might debate, however, is the nature of his role. He likely envisions himself as a Cory Ellison, the handsome president of the fictional network news division on The Morning Show. Ellison's character is in part modeled on Zucker, the man who made his bones by becoming the youngest executive producer of NBC's Today and steering it from near-irrelevance into dominance. But Cory, for all his ruthlessness, is somewhat likable. The real world's audience doesn't see Zucker that way. To the public, Zucker is the one- or two-season guest star who joins the workplace drama ensemble and mucks up the joint. He's the guy who screwed over Conan O'Brien and thought, wrongly, that America was craving more Jay Leno in prime time, at a time when the host's popularity had tumbled. He's the man who saw the end of Friends on the horizon and thought Joey would solve that problem. On the plus side, he's also the guy who was at NBC's helm when 30 Rock and The Office were on. But he is more Michael Scott than Jack Donaghy, a man whose name is synonymous with the phrase 'failing upward.' Nobody bloviates his way into ever-greater positions of power without having the alliances to make that possible. And this has worked for Zucker, a guy who moves forward and selects a few co-stars to bring him without substantially improving the company he's been put in charge of. This may be why the reaction within CNN to his ouster is mixed."

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    • Did Jeff Zucker and Chris Cuomo use #MeToo as a weapon in their power struggle?: "That Zucker—arguably the person most responsible for turning TV news into entertainment and giving Donald Trump endless airtime in 2016—resigned over this feels, as one person put it to me, like getting Al Capone on tax evasion," says Noreen Malone. "Sure, there are things that are suspect about Zucker’s relationship with (Allison) Gollust. According to Katie Couric’s 2021 book, Zucker had long pushed for Gollust’s promotion. New York magazine’s Shawn McCreesh, in a perhaps unintentional echo of the way Harvey Weinstein’s transgressions were described, called the relationship 'one of the biggest open secrets in media.' Even if Zucker wasn’t sexually harassing or pressuring Gollust, this is classic power-imbalance stuff, the kind of thing that would have inevitably had consequences for other women (and men!) who didn’t have that close relationship with Zucker but still worked with both of them. There’s not just a legal problem there, in other words; there’s a moral one...And yet … Zucker’s departure doesn’t exactly have the air of finally, at last, this abuser has been named and ousted. It doesn’t exactly appear as if any employees came forward feeling wronged or targeted by Zucker’s sexual dealings. (Except, perhaps, former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo.) If anything, they’re reacting to the news with frustration. Instead, the whole scandal has the whiff of classic corporate ratf*ckery, with a modern twist: All the feminist lessons of the past several years have been scooped up, melted down, and welded into a sharp, sharp shiv. The same worlds where abuse was likely to have been taken seriously and codified during the rise of Me Too—cloistered, rivalrous, impossibly competitive, liberal-leaning zones like television networks, academia, and Democratic politics—are now the worlds in which the accusations are most easily weaponized by power players seeking an advantage. Zucker may be the most recent example, but he’s certainly not alone."
    • CNN will be better off without Jeff Zucker -- his CNN+ plans seemed half-baked looking like a "CNN2 for Wolf Blitzer and Jake Tapper superfans": "In the long run, CNN will be much better off without Zucker at the helm," says Josef Adalian. "I say this despite knowing Zucker has many fans within the company, particularly among the anchor talent whose careers he helped build. His resignation could lead to some unhappy staffers in the months ahead...But outside CNN, Zucker had a vast army of detractors arrayed against him. Among news purists and many progressives, Zucker’s relentless focus on ratings and buzz — even if it meant covering poop cruises and empty podiums — managed to erase whatever was left of CNN founder Ted Turner’s legacy and turned CNN into a cable-news dystopia dominated by shouting heads and tabloid-style coverage of politics. Folks on the right, meanwhile, saw Zucker as a partisan hack devoted to the destruction of the GOP and Donald Trump (ironic given that Zucker’s coverage decisions at CNN played a key role in building up the reputation of candidate Trump, Zucker’s star employee during the era of The Apprentice.) While it is normally a good thing for people in journalism to piss off both sides of the aisle, in Zucker’s case, the ire was not earned through becoming some sort of nonpartisan ideal of a reporter. Rather, it came mostly from a series of decisions motivated by a desire for higher ratings, bigger profits, and, in some cases (such as the coddling of Chris Cuomo), protecting his pals. You don’t have to think the progressive and conservative critiques of Zucker are equivalent — they’re not — to believe there’s an upside to being rid of someone who’s so widely disliked for all the wrong reasons." Adalian adds that Zucker's departure was necessary because he wasn't the right person to lead CNN into the streaming age. "I don’t want to render any sort of actual judgment on the about-to-launch CNN+ based on the limited information released about the platform to date," says Adalian. "But at a time when cable-news ratings are collapsing, creating a new pay platform focused on rehashed versions of existing CNN shows and staffed with existing high-profile talents feels … half baked? CNN should be focused on how it can become a content factory for HBO Max or a bigger player in the ad-supported streaming marketplace. Instead, with CNN+, Zucker seemed to be chasing what feels like an early-aughts dream of a CNN2 for Wolf Blitzer and Jake Tapper superfans."
    • Zucker's legacy will be defined by his promotion of Donald Trump: "When the dust settles, Zucker’s relationship with Donald Trump will define his legacy," says Margaret Sullivan. "Zucker, as much as any other person in the world, created and burnished the Trump persona — first as a reality-TV star who morphed into a worldwide celebrity, then as a candidate for president who was given large amounts of free publicity. The through line? Nothing nobler than TV ratings, which always were Zucker’s guiding light, his be-all and end-all and, ultimately, his fatal flaw."
    • While CNN staffers question the need for Zucker's resignation, employment experts say the ex-CNN president broke a fundamental rule: Domenique Camacho Moran, a partner at the New York-based law firm Farrell Fritz, says Zucker’s failure to disclose his relationship was a violation of company policy — a policy that exists to give the company a chance to assess potential conflicts of interest and other possible concerns about power dynamics. “It’s the law surrounding sexual harassment and how to create a workplace free from sexual harassment that drives employers to adopt rules regarding relationships ... and when you have someone at the very top of an organization, there’s no question that is a powerful position,” Moran says.
    • Chris Cuomo's legal team did indeed raise questions about Jeff Zucker's relationship with Allison Gollust

    TOPICS: Jeff Zucker, CNN, Allison Gollust, Chris Cuomo, Cable News


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