Archive for the CNN Category

CNN Workforce Cuts…

Posted in CNN on October 6, 2014 by icn2

TVNewser’s Chris Ariens reports that CNN will be forced to cut its workforce as part of the Turner 2020 initiative…

As part of Turner 2020, the cost-cutting and reorganization plan announced earlier this year, the parent company of CNN, HLN, TBS and others, just announced it plans to cut 1,475 jobs.

The cuts, first announced in August, will come from across the company’s networks and corporate functions and will include layoffs, buyouts and unfilled positions. Turner says it will also add 150 new jobs.

“Employees whose positions are directly impacted will be advised over the next two weeks and will be offered severance pay for transition,” CEO John Martin writes in a note to staff.

Inside Jeff Zucker…

Posted in CNN on October 5, 2014 by icn2

In a must read, New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman turns his keyboard to CNN in general and Jeff Zucker in particular. Typical of Sherman articles of this nature, it’s chock full of kibitz worthy nuggets like this…

The strategy was most vividly on display during CNN’s breathless—and seemingly endless—coverage of the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, lowlighted by anchor Don Lemon speculating on camera that the missing plane might have flown into a black hole. (Zucker was frustrated by the gaffe: “Don, don’t be an idiot.”)

And this…

According to CNN sources, Tapper vented to colleagues about having to cover the George Zimmerman trial so extensively, and Cooper protested the MH370 marathon. As for the entertainment programming, a veteran producer told me that it was “akin to McDonald’s taking reservations for dinner.”

And this…

Maybe Jeff Zucker’s career is an object lesson in the dangers of peaking too early. Or the hubris of leaving a winning team. Or maybe it just goes to show that it’s hard to capture lightning in a bottle once—let alone twice—in television. Nevertheless, he is dogged by the question of whether he can achieve something like his early success again. “Is Jeff a one-hit wonder?” a former NBC executive asked. “It’s the ­sophomore-album problem.”

And this…

One evening in August, I meet Zucker downtown at Babbo. “I don’t really go south of 42nd Street without a visa,” he tells me. Over dinner, I ask him about the narrative that persists in some corners of the industry that he’s failed upward. “The one thing we could not get fixed was NBC prime time. Fact. You want me to go scream it on the street?” he says with a flash of exasperation. “We had six consecutive years of best-ever performance in the cable division. NBC Sports? We’re the ones who went and bought Sunday Night Football. Universal Pictures? We’re the ones who bought Illumination Studios”—creator of the Despicable Me franchise—“and Harry Potter. I’m not trying to take credit for these things. But if things happen on your watch, both bad and good, you have to judge it collectively.”

And this…

But over the next few months, Zucker’s enemies in Hollywood mobilized. Kent and Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes received calls from power brokers like Ari Emanuel and Rick Rosen, Conan O’Brien’s agent at William Morris Endeavor, imploring them not to hire Zucker. “He’s a political animal. You’re going to destroy the organization,” Kent was told. Bewkes heard talk that the ambitious Zucker would go after Kent’s job.

The anti-Zucker campaign spooked Kent. “I was concerned at the volume of calls I was getting lobbying against Jeff,” he told me. “I was also well aware of everyone’s agenda.” According to sources familiar with the search, Kent began considering other candidates, including former ESPN executive Mark Shapiro and then–NBC News president Steve Capus. Zucker’s allies fought back. Ron Meyer, Universal Studios’ then-president, and Steve Lafferty, head of CAA’s TV department, called Kent and made Zucker’s case. In November, Kent finally offered Zucker the job. “I’m sorry it took so long,” he said.

Jeff Zucker: Micromanager?

Posted in CNN on October 4, 2014 by icn2

The New York Times’ Emily Steel <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/04/business/media/at-crossroads-cnn-seeks-to-reassert-itself.html?_r=1 grumblings over Jeff Zucker’s management style…

One change that Mr. Zucker has made is emphasizing breaking news, focusing coverage on just two or three major stories throughout a given day, rather than delivering an all-encompassing, scattershot report of the headlines as was common in the past. The rationale is that viewers are likely to catch other news on the web or on social media. Mr. Zucker leads daily news meetings, unlike past CNN chiefs who delegated the responsibility. Employees called Mr. Zucker a micromanager and said that he sent missives from his BlackBerry at all hours about everything, be it the length of story segments or the graphics that appear on screen.

I don’t have a problem with this. Remember, Zucker was hired as a turnaround President. People who are given those kinds of charters, and know it, are going to get their fingers in the machinery. It should be a given.

CNN’s (Un)Scripting…

Posted in CNN on October 3, 2014 by icn2

Capital New York’s Alex Weprin writes about CNN’s unscripted programming…

With the threat of layoffs from the “Turner 2020” plan hanging over all of Turner Broadcasting, those original programs seem assured to be spared from cuts. If anything, Turner 2020 will amplify CNN’s original programming plans.

But that only intensifies the pressure.

CNN has blocked out 9 p.m. on its schedule for original series, though so far it it does not have nearly enough programs to fill up that schedule. With the new shows launching this fall, and the slate for 2015 just about to take shape, that will soon change.

“I don’t think we have launched three at one time before,” Amy Entelis, CNN’s senior V.P. of talent and content development told Capital, referring to a new season of “Parts Unknown,” and the launches of new shows featuring Lisa Ling and Mike Rowe. “This is sort of a big season for us right now, the most new content that we have put out there since we started this strategy.”

Shots Fired…

Posted in CNN on October 2, 2014 by icn2

Politico’s Dylan Byers interviews Piers Morgan…

“I’ve always felt that CNN should be more resilient to media criticism about monthly or quarterly ratings,” Morgan says. “Ted Turner once described CNN to me as The New York Times of television. We don’t care about chasing ratings or chasing readers. We care about having a brand that is so trusted that whenever anything important happens in the world, people turn us on.

“If I was running CNN, if I was Jeff Zucker, I would come out and do an interview with someone like you, and I would say, ‘I’m not going to discuss ratings again,’” Morgan continues. “Our business proposition is not predicated on ratings, our global brand is not dependent on how we rate at 9 p.m. in America.”

Zucker won’t actually say that, of course, because “everyone would probably perceive it as him looking weak.”

The old ICN doesn’t exist any more. But if it did I would be pointing out right here that I made the exact same argument years ago…

And then there’s this…

“Could I have done with a better lead-in? Yes,” Morgan says. “Anderson is a great field reporter, but does he drive big ratings at CNN, outside of a big news cycle? I don’t see any evidence of it. And yet the whole bank was being bet on him at 8 and 10 o’clock.

“I never bought into that as my best way of getting ratings” he continues. “You look over at Megyn Kelly on Fox News and she’s inheriting 450,000 or 500,000 from Bill O’Reilly in the [25-to-54-year-old] demo, and some days I’d be getting 60,000. That’s not to denigrate Anderson so much, because I think he’s pretty good at what he does. But was he the golden boy everybody thought he was? I didn’t see much evidence of that in ratings.”

(Morgan says he and Cooper “were never the easiest of bedfellows.” Cooper was “just a totally different character than me,” he says, “and we never really clicked.”)

Zakaria: Newsweek Puts A Crack In The Dam

Posted in CNN on September 29, 2014 by icn2

In a shock move with potential ramifications for CNN, Politico’s Dylan Byers writes about Newsweek putting up plagiarism warnings on its old Zakaria articles…

Newsweek has added a plagiarism warning to all of its columns by Fareed Zakaria in the wake of new plagiarism accusations.

“Fareed Zakaria worked for Newsweek when it was under previous ownership. Readers are advised that some of his articles have been the subject of complaints claiming that they contain material that should have been attributed to others,” the note reads. “In addition, readers with information about articles by Mr. Zakaria that may purportedly lack proper attribution are asked to e-mail Newsweek at corrections@newsweek.com.”

Zakaria, now a CNN host and columnist for The Washington Post, wrote for Newsweek from 1996 to 2010 and also served as editor of Newsweek International from 2000 to 2010. A handful of the articles he wrote for Newsweek have been included in the ongoing plagiarism accusations by Our Bad Media, a site run by two anonymous Twitter users that has dedicated nearly two months to Zakaria’s work.

The note from Newsweek goes far beyond what any of Zakaria’s current employers have done in response to the reports. CNN President Jeff Zucker recently said that he has “complete confidence” in Zakaria, while Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt has dismissed the plagiarism accusations altogether.

Oh yeah…this could move the goalposts on Zakaria. I was looking for something from Time Magazine and the results of its new investigation. I wasn’t expecting anything from Newsweek.

This is definitely not what CNN wanted to see happen because it puts the focus back on the network and why it still wholeheartedly backs Zakaria when another journalistic organization is now putting up plagiarism warnings on the articles he wrote for them.

You still have time though CNN. A full and forthright accounting at this point, while horribly late, is still a better option than the path you’ve chosen to go down…

Zakaria: CNN’s Mixed Messages…

Posted in CNN on September 28, 2014 by icn2

Today on Brian Stelter’s Reliable Sources, he talked about Zakaria.

Well I’ll give Stelter credit for getting this segment on the air in the first place. It takes guts to bring up a story your own network would like to bury with a bulldozer and then pour tons of concrete on top of it for good measure.

That said, I do find fault with Stelter’s segment. It doesn’t whitewash Zakaria. However, Stelter obviously has a soft spot for him and admitted as much today on TV. I did too…until 2012 and this scandal broke out. Stelter clearly feels the charges against Zakaria are overdone and he, I think fairly, notes that the guys at OBM seem to have an agenda with Zakaria…or at the very least give off the appearance of taking this “crusade” a little to personally. Speaking as an anonymous blogger, you definitely aren’t taken as seriously when you don’t have a name for critics and non-critics to hook on to. It’s the price you pay for going that route.

But the main problem I have with Stelter’s segment is not that Stelter, despite his best efforts, was unable to completely shake off the appearance of not being able to separate his personal feelings from his professional duties. My main problem is how narrow this segment’s subject matter was.

To watch it, you’d think the main charges against Zakaria concern what happened on GPS when the reality is that the GPS stuff is more like the icing on the cake with the cake being the two previous rounds of print accusations OBM threw at Zakaria. While Stelter does make an allusion to them at one point with a vague reference to “not just against his GPS work, but his columns and books too”, he steers clear of the OBM print allegations entirely. This part in particular bothered me…

But these bloggers claims have gotten attention partly because prior claims of plagiarism were leveled against Zakaria in 2012.

No. The GPS claims got attention because OBM set the stage…in 2014…with two different articles detailing more alleged examples of print plagiarmism that were not covered in the original 2012 scandal which threw serious questions at those who did the original 2012 due dilligence on Zakaria as a result of the Newsweek issue.

This is driven home in Stelter’s very next sentence…

I believe that most of their claims about GPS – 26 total – do not hold up under close scrutiny. The closer you look, the less it looks like capital “P” plagiarism.

1. What about the other claims OBM threw at Zakaria? Why concentrate on just the GPS ones? Did you not look at them at all? If you did why didn’t you include them here?

2. What were Stelter’s criteria for separating the “most” group that don’t hold up with the others which apparently did hold up? If you’re going to use the word “most” that automatically means that “some” don’t fall into that category because “most” is not an absolute. Which, by extrapolation, means some of those 26 claims did stand up to capital “P” plagiarism. And just which ones were those anyway?

3. As opposed to what? Small “P” plagiarism?

4. The “just a little bit pregnant” defense? Really?

This is what happens when you try to stick a toe into the water instead of jumping in fully….you don’t look like you’ve gone all in.

I have no first hand evidence of this but the way the segment went down with what it said, how it said it, and, most importantly, what it didn’t get into, strongly points to the suggestion that Stelter’s entire segment on Zakaria had to run through CNN’s editorial gauntlet, probably more than once. Stelter’s too good a writer and a journalist to give short shrift to 2/3 of OBM’s articles on Zakaria while giving him what amounts to mostly a pass on the GPS stuff. Here’s why this matters…

By concentrating on GPS, Stelter, whether it was his intention or not, is able to (fairly in my opinion) throw cold water on the plagiarism charges by noting how TV news works and the question of whether Zakaria wrote his opens or some sloppy producer did.

But you can’t use that argument to knock down the two rounds of OBM print charges (as well as the Slate charges OBM tossed out this week). It doesn’t work…unless Zakaria was having his print articles ghost written; which, if true (it’s not) would be an even bigger scandal than this one.

I would dearly love to know the no doubt twisted and tortuous process this segment took to get to air. I could imagine everyone from Jeff Zucker to CNN’s legal department had a say on it. I could see how CNN management might see this as an opportunity to try and put this to bed while at the same time having the segment come across as some sort of transparency example; a “We’re not afraid to tackle the tough issues even when we’re the subject matter” if you will. Too bad the segment failed at both.

This segment underscores why nothing short of CNN coming clean with a full in depth and forthright explanation will suffice here. All we’ve had are tortured responses. CNN issued a vaguely tortured response standing by its 2012 investigation and has said nothing since, while Zakaria continues to bleed all over it thanks to OBM’s continuing “agenda”. This segment was itself a tortured response in what it cherry picked to highlight and what it chose to gloss over, no doubt with CNN management input.

But all these tortured responses have done is make the situation worse. Those of us who want CNN to come out with something more comprehensive in regards to Zakaria in general and specifically in regards to how OBM’s examples square with CNN’s journalism standards, are able to shred these responses apart with all too much ease. If you’re going to respond you need to make your response bulletproof, not give your critics more ammunition in the form of new questions precisely because your responses have been so tortured.

Personally, I think CNN’s intransigence on Zakaria has less to do with Zakaria and more to do with what benchmark it sets if the network did launch a new investigation…never mind reprimand him or cut him loose. I think the network is worried, at least partially, that applying print plagiarism standards to its TV scripts, TV reporting in the field, and web news articles, could open up a Pandora’s box of hurt down the road. Better to back Zakaria and take a few bumps and bruises now than to set what would amount to a new standard (or at the very least what is today a very rarely publicly applied standard) for TV News networks.

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