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Jeff Zucker on CNN role: No 'specifics [but] work to be done'
Jeff Zucker, newly minted chief of CNN's worldwide operations, addressed his role in a conference call Thursday morning, offering no specifics about future changes: "That's not fair to anybody," adding: "There are great folks here but more work to be done."
Indeed, that's called '"understatement." Zucker joins a flailing brand that remains one of the most lustrous in the entire media firmament, with an ongoing ability to attract huge crowds during major events (the most watched cable network on election night, for example) but an inability to draw many viewers at just about any other moment. It's been a frustration for generations of CNN overseers, most recently Jim Walton, a CNN lifer who leaves at the end of the year.
Could, Zucker was asked, avoid his history -- the one at NBC where prime-time ratings fell to fourth place under his often controversial watch? "No doubt I made mistakes in the entertainment world, and I own those," but he said the emphasis here would be what he had done best in his past -- as a news executive. "This is a return to daily news journalism."
That ratings challenge at CNN? "Ratings aren't necessarily what define the health of this business," or -- as his boss Phil Kent -- Turner chief, also on the call -- put it:, ratings "are not what we're most concerned about here but to be essential to someone . . . to be essential to a core fan base."
Zucker did get in his first ding on the competition -- notably MSNBC and Fox News: "We face the challenge of how consumers get their news and information” but CNN will continue "to stand for journalism, almost unlike anyone else."
Will there be room for partisan shows, he was asked? Nah, but he will "broaden the definition of what news is."
And what is that "broader definition?" Zucker said any changes will unfold over the next several months.