All Articles Tagged "Jeff Zucker"

CNN Needs A Splash of Color! Journalist Appointed To Lead Network’s Diversity Group

October 3rd, 2013 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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Anderson Cooper image via Joseph Marzullo/ Jake Tapper (top) and Wolf Blitzer (bottom) via Twitter

Anderson Cooper image via Joseph Marzullo/ Jake Tapper (top) and Wolf Blitzer (bottom) via Twitter

Since Soledad O’Brien was dismissed, CNN has been in the hot seat for its homogeneous, “invariably white” staff. Swooping in to dissipate criticism, Geraldine Moriba, the new Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion for CNN Worldwide, will work to bring a splash of color to the news network.

Ever since Jeff Zucker was appointed president of CNN last year, the network has developed a poor track record on diversity. Along with O’Brien, Roland Martin and Donna Brazile were removed from their analyst positions on the network. “Do you think that the vision Zucker has for CNN may be a ‘White-out?'” an Ebony contributor once asked. Martin, describing CNN executives as “largely white males,” believed they refused to renew his contract despite his good ratings because they were threatened by “having strong, confident minorities” on board.

Just last week, rumors were circulating that Zucker was pulling the plug on CNN’s Diversity Council, but CNN announced the contrary: African-American journalist Geraldine Moriba will be spearheading a revamped Council to address multicultural issues facing the news network.

I had the pleasure of working with her prior to my time at CNN, and always found her to have a terrific sensibility and understanding of some of the complex issues we face when it comes to diversity and inclusion,” said Jeff Zucker, chief of CNN.

For the first time, the VP of Diversity and Inclusion will be required to report directly to the President on matters concerning diversification.

Moriba, also an Emmy-winning executive producer for CNN’s Program Development, has demonstrated her credentials for her new position through her work on CNN’s In America. The program featured 11 groundbreaking documentaries in two years which “focused on communities which had previously been underserved,” a press release stated. Moriba also created the “In America Blog” which surpassed 15 million readers within the first six months.

Aware of the scrutiny CNN has received for hiring few anchors of color, Moriba explained, “Some of the smartest journalists in the business work at CNN and I know that the prevailing sentiment in our newsrooms is that it is crucial for our content and workforce to reflect the audience we serve. These are goals accomplished by working as a team. This isn’t only about pursuing a noble purpose, it’s about continuing to share news from across our increasingly diverse and interconnected world, in even more effective ways.” The anchors in the image up top are some of the network’s more famous faces. But Jane Velez-Mitchell (host of Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell), Van Jones (one of the hosts of the revamped Crossfire), and Don Lemon (host of CNN Newsroom on the weekends) are some of the other anchors on the network.

The award-winning CNN Diversity Council was created back in 2003. Its basic initiative is to enforce CNN’s diversity mission of “growing its business by reflecting diverse audiences and perspectives in its programming and supporting an inclusive culture for its employees,” a press statement said.

Rumors Swirl That Katie Couric Will Head To CNN As Behind-The-Scenes Upheaval Continues

June 11th, 2013 - By Tonya Garcia
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Joseph Marzullo/

Joseph Marzullo/

We’ve been pretty open about the fact that we’re not huge fans of Katie Couric’s daytime talk show. Clearly, what we’re seeing on-screen reflects the issues going on behind-the-scenes.

Two co-executive producers and a director are the latest departures, according to sources for The Hollywood ReporterA few other producers previously left the show, following the departure of Jeff Zucker, who’s now at CNN. Rumors are swirling that the show will not make it to the third season and Couric herself might head to CNN. A source for the New York Post says Zucker’s departure from the talk show “left a void.” A second source notes “creative tension.” The tabloid says that there will be additional job cuts.

THR says the show has struggled with the balance of hard news and the fluffier fare that daytime viewers are used to. Indeed if you’ve ever watched the show, one minute there’ll be a segment about some serious health issue, the next Katie is doing a sit down with a celebrity who has a movie to plug. Her ratings for women ages 25-to-54 are actually lower than Steve Harvey’s, who is clearly killing it on his show.

The Atlantic Wire proposes that, if she did go to CNN, there could be space for Couric in the morning (displacing Kate Bouldan) or in primetime. Would you be more likely to watch her show there?

Despite Continued Criticism Over Its Boston Marathon Manhunt Coverage, CNN Wins In The Ratings

April 23rd, 2013 - By Tonya Garcia
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cnn_arrest_grabYou know your news broadcast has problems when Don Imus feels entitled to criticize it. CNN continues to feel the heat resulting from their coverage of the manhunt for the teenage suspect in the Boston Marathon attack, which both erroneously reported that there had been an arrest before there was one, and reported that the suspect was a “dark-skinned male.”

“I just want to know what happened,” Imus said on the air today. “Just tell me what happened.” (He calls their reporting “hyper-bolay”… LOL.)

And once again, Jon Stewart went in mercilessly on CNN on The Daily Show, not just for the content, but for the seeming disorganization between the reporters and the control room in their ongoing race to report all the things they don’t know.

But pay the facts no nevermind, say the viewers. Reports The New York Times:

CNN averaged 2.9 million viewers for its daylong coverage, behind the 3.2 million who watched Fox News. But among viewers between the ages of 25 and 54, which is how advertisers buy commercials on news channels, CNN had 1.34 million viewers, compared with 952,000 for Fox News. In both cases those were the best numbers for CNN for all nonpolitical events since April 2003, when the channel was covering the Iraq war.

The question is whether this a momentary bump or something the network can carry through. More than that, there’s the issue of CNN’s reputation. Already tarnished for their bloopers while reporting the Supreme Court decision on President Obama’s healthcare plan (CNN said it had been struck down), the reporting last week definitely didn’t help. In this column by the Times‘ David Carr, he notes that people want CNN to succeed, but “hugely embarrassing” incidents like the one last week undermine it. And they’re messing up at a time when people are paying attention to the changes that new president Jeff Zucker is putting into place. Carr writes:

Part of the reason that we still want CNN to be great is that at a moment when information and news seem to have done a jailbreak — bursting forth everywhere in all sorts of ways — it would be nice to have a village common where a reliable provider of news held the megaphone. By marketing itself as the most trusted name in news, CNN is and should be held to a higher standard.

And for his efforts, John King remains on the air. He addressed his coverage on Twitter, and it’s worth noting that other outlets, including the AP, said they had sources stating an arrest had been made. And King said he also had sources telling him the suspect was dark-skinned. Now he’s off to Texas to interview President George W. Bush about his new presidential library, which will be opening on May 1.

“The challenge for us is how to make CNN more essential, how to make it one of the four tires on the car,” Zucker said at an Atlanta Press Club event last month. To be more essential, the network has to be more careful and less ridiculous.


Roland Martin Leaving CNN Because The “New Boss Wants His Own Peeps”

March 20th, 2013 - By Tonya Garcia
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Photo by Ryan Miller/Invision/AP

Photo by Ryan Miller/Invision/AP

There had been talk of his departure more than a month ago, but now it’s official: Roland Martin is leaving CNN.

In a tweet, Martin said his last day is April 8. The Hollywood Reporter reports that Martin tweeted at another point that he was leaving because the “new boss wants his own peeps.”

Of course, the new boss is Jeff Zucker, who has been cleaning house since he took the top job at CNN in recent months.

roland martin tweetMartin went into further detail in an email to Politico, saying that he will miss “the folks I tried to speak for and represent the most when I was on the air: the men and the women who worked on the crew; the security guards; and even the janitorial workers. Those were the people I most spoke for; those were the people who would cheer me on as I walked down the streets, in the grocery store; and at airports.”

Taking a dip into more melodramatic waters, Martin added, “In my final days at CNN when I’m on the air, I will to do as the Tuskegee Airmen did, fight to the last hour, last minute, last second, for what is right. And I will do that as long as there is breath in my body.”

He also reiterated — both in his statement and in a tweet — that he “won’t be silenced” even though he’ll no longer be with the cable network. He says he will continue with the “Tom Joyner Morning Show,” his TV One program Washington Watch, and his nationally syndicated column.

Martin has been a contributor with CNN for six years.  A number of other contributors, including James Carville and Mary Matalin, have also recently left the network.

Is Tamron Hall Being Wooed By CNN? The Network Is Said to Want Her for Mornings

March 4th, 2013 - By Tonya Garcia
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Image: MSNBC

Image: MSNBC

With Soledad O’Brien’s pending departure from CNN’s morning line up, there’s a vacancy at the anchor desk. It seemed all but certain that Erin Burnett, an evening anchor with the network, would be taking up the position alongside Chris Cuomo, the two working together to revive CNN’s ailing morning ratings. Now it appears Erin Burnett isn’t interested in the job. Radar Online says it was Burnett’s “diva demands.” The Atlantic Wire says money was an issue. Burnett is already making $2.5 million on the evening news and wanted more to make the move. Either way, now it looks like the deal is off and CNN President Jeff Zucker is now looking elsewhere to make a hire.

Could Tamron Hall be in the running? The New York Post reported as much today. Also in the running, the newspaper says, are Suzanne Malveaux and  Brooke Baldwin.

Erin Burnett. (AP Photo/Starpix, Amanda Schwab)

Erin Burnett. (AP Photo/Starpix, Amanda Schwab)

In the case of Tamron, TVNewser says “not true.”

“A source in the agent community confirms that Zucker is fond of Hall, but they note that NBC News and MSNBC are fond of her too. More importantly, our source says, Hall has at least a year left on her contract with MSNBC, making any potential jump very difficult,” the blog writes, noting it could happen at some point, but not in time to staff up this morning show.

Oh well… We’ll just have to keep tuning in to NBC if we want to see Hall at work.

CNN’s New President Off To A Rocky Ratings Start

February 27th, 2013 - By Tonya Garcia
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CNN's Jeff Zucker. Photo: Patrick Mcmullan/ Press/lauersinaisipa.006/1112091721 (Sipa via AP Images)

CNN’s Jeff Zucker. Photo: Patrick Mcmullan/ Press/lauersinaisipa.006/1112091721 (Sipa via AP Images)

Jeff Zucker has already achieved a level of infamy in certain circles for making the decision to take Soledad O’Brien out of the morning lineup and replace her with Chris Cuomo and evening anchor Erin Burnett. (Though it looks like Soledad is landing on her feet just fine, thank you very much.) Now he can add a ratings dip to his troubles.

Deadline Hollywood reports that the network saw a five percent decline in daytime viewers for the month of February, and a one percent decline for evening viewers, compared to January. Part of the problem could’ve been the network’s extensive coverage of the stranded cruise ship Triumph’s tug to port in Alabama on Valentine’s Day. Many questioned that decision. And there’s no more election to cover (which could explain the cruise ship bonanza.)

The year-over-year results are even worse. CNN is down 10 percent in daytime viewers compared to February 2012, and 18 percent in the evening, attracting 424,000 viewers between the hours of 8pm and 11pm this month. That said, last February’s numbers were affected by not only televised Republican presidential primary debates and the broadcast funeral for Whitney Houston.

Fox News Channel, which came in number one, pulled in 1.79 million primetime viewers on average for the month.

On a positive note, some of CNN’s programs saw ratings increases, reports TVNewser, including Erin Burnett Outfront, which was up 15 percent (an up 11 percent in the important 25-to-54 demographic) and Starting Point, O’Brien’s soon-to-be-canceled morning show, which was up 27 percent broadly and 21 percent in that key demo.

TVNewser has the CNN press release that touts the narrowing gap between its ratings and MSNBC.

Zucker assumed his role at CNN on January 20, so it’s barely been more than a month on the job. We’ll have to see what sort of impact his changes have. Will you tune in to the post-Soledad morning program?

Soledad O’Brien’s New Production Company Is Already Getting Pitches, CNN Getting Criticized About Diversity

February 26th, 2013 - By Tonya Garcia
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Paul Bruinooge/ USA (Sipa via AP Images)

Paul Bruinooge/ USA (Sipa via AP Images)

Her new production company, Starfish Media Group, was only announced a few days ago, but already, CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien says she’s gotten four documentary pitches. Starfish doesn’t actually launch until June. And O’Brien is seated in the anchor chair at CNN until May or June.

O’Brien told The Huffington Post that the situation was a “win-win” for everyone.

“We did not get a lot of promotion. We did not get a lot of marketing. We weren’t fully staffed,” she said of her show Starting Point. Still, she maintains that the show did “a really good job.” At the moment, she has no plans to continue as an anchor once the gig at CNN is over. Starfish will be producing three documentaries in 2014 including one more installment of the “Black in America” series.

According to TVNewser, O’Brien doesn’t have a bad word to say about Jeff Zucker, CNN’s new president and the man responsible for putting Chris Cuomo and Erin Burnett in the network’s morning lineup. Moreover, she agrees that the network “positively needed to be changed.”

O’Brien may not have anything bad to say about the network, but The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) and the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) both have a lot to say to Zucker about the low level of diversity at the network. Gregory H. Lee Jr., the president of the NABJ, is said to be speaking with the CNN board.

Zucker spoke to the National Association of Black Journalists yesterday, just days after O’Brien made her departure known. The NAHJ, also citing O’Brien’s departure, noted that Zoraida Sambolin, host of Early Start from 5am to 7am, is the only Latina in the daytime and evening schedule.

“NAHJ urges CNN to take judicious positive steps in diversifying its lineup and filling this void with the hiring of Latino talent for its English-language network. Diversity must be of the utmost importance as CNN looks to successfully grow its network’s brand,” the organization said.

MSNBC was recently rewarded with elevated ratings from black audiences, owing in part to the diversity in its anchor lineup. Diversity in the news isn’t an option, but a necessity.


Is Soledad O’Brien Ready to Leave CNN?

February 20th, 2013 - By Tonya Garcia
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Soledad O'Brien on the catwalk for the Red Dress Collection 2013 Fashion Show. Photo by John Minchillo/Invision/AP

Soledad O’Brien on the catwalk for the Red Dress Collection 2013 Fashion Show. Photo by John Minchillo/Invision/AP

We’d already heard that Jeff Zucker, CNN’s new president, was ready to make some major changes to turn things around at the network, including a shakeup of the morning anchor lineup. Now comes word that one of its stars might be ready to say “Deuces” to CNN entirely.

The rumored plan was that Soledad O’Brien was being shipped out of the anchor seat at Starting Point in favor of evening anchor Erin Burnett. Where O’Brien would land was still up in the air. Now the New York Post‘s Page Six is saying O’Brien might be leaving the network entirely.

“We’re told award-winning journalist O’Brien has indicated she is ready to leave after she was initially promised a plum prime-time slot, but that role has so far failed to materialize,” the paper reports.

“Soledad is talented at producing in-depth, serious pieces of journalism, and is a tough interviewer. That doesn’t seem to fit the direction the network is going,” another source tells the paper. So she’s actually too good of a journalist for what the network would like to do?

O’Brien went to CNN from NBC, so she’s actually worked with Zucker in the past. But now, as The Atlantic Wire reports, “She was at once the face of CNN’s shaky programming lineup when her show split from American Morning into Starting Point, and Zucker’s Today show history makes him an undisputed king of soft-news, double-anchor morning-show success.”

Zucker actually told the site that the show was enjoying some much-improved ratings, up 36 percent total year-over-year.

We attended a panel discussion last night moderated by O’Brien (“Blacks in Advertising & America: Old Challenges and New Opportunities”) and, naturally, O’Brien didn’t betray any concerns about CNN during the evening. What was evident was that O’Brien is a well-respected journalist — both in media and among viewers — and if she does decide to leave CNN, she’ll land on her feet elsewhere. We’ll go so far to predict that if she leaves CNN, she’ll end up at MSNBC.