The MSNBC Pendulum Swingeth?

Posted in MSNBC on October 9, 2014 by icn2

The Daily Caller’s Betsy Rothstein writes about MSNBC avoiding its old “The place for politics” charter…

“MSNBC is under pressure to cut costs,” an MSNBC insider tells The Mirror, explaining that there is a real push from Philadelphia to do more breaking news and less politics.

If true this is a strange twist straight out of the Twilight Zone given that MSNBC has moved to POV Analysis with POV hosts…the very people who are the least credible when breaking news erupts. Indeed, the network just let one of its top two breaking news assets leave the network for the White House. Can you picture Ronan Farrow covering a terrorist attack? Joy Reid covering a natural disaster? The Cycle hosts covering a plane crash? Alex Wagner covering a market meltdown? See the problem?

The insider added, “The need for political experts is waning, which means many political contracts won’t be renewed and Goldie Taylor happens to be part of that collateral damage. She understands politics, but she has never worked in politics. [Things are] shifting to a large degree. It’s not that we don’t cover politics. CNN has been the place for breaking news. There’s nothing MSNBC can do about that. People leave Fox News when there’s breaking news.”

And we stay in the Twilight Zone because this leaker inadvertently points out an inherent contradiction in this approach. The whole reason to do more breaking news is on the theory that MSNBC needs more news becaues POV hasn’t been working well lately in the ratings. And yet the leaker admits that the network isn’t the place people go to for breaking news. So the question looms: what’s the point?

BTW, none of this seems to jell with Phil “I’m in this (POV) for the long haul” Griffin’s recent doubling down on finding new voices. This means that either the leaker is just causing mischief or Comcast really does want MSNBC to do more breaking news which would undermine everything Griffin recently said on the subject.

Either way, Phil Griffin will be pissed at this coming out…true or not.

Spot The Anonymouse: The Sequel…

Posted in CNN on October 9, 2014 by icn2

Mediaite’s Joe Concha writes about the latest leak to allegedly come out of NBC News…

The big two questions are: Would this have worked if NBC News President Deborah Turness could have pulled it off? And why/how do these kind of leaks continue to occur under Ms. Turness?

At least one of these questions is the wrong one to be asking. But I’ll circle back to that in a moment…

Then there’s the disturbing (to NBC brass) pattern of leaks during the Turness tenure. David Gregory’s exit was a clinic on how not to handle something in the media business (or any business for that matter). Note: Gregory had been with the network for two decades, handling anchoring/hosting roles from morning show to evening newscast. A few months before firing him, someone in a high place at NBC willfully leaked that a “psychological consultant” was hired to interview Gregory’s friends and family (which didn’t make him look bad or anything). And before NBC could announce his actual termination in August, again the network is caught flat-footed when the press breaks the not-so-surprising news first.

So who’s talking and why? Today, the New York Post features a blaring headline: Are Deborah Turness’ days at NBC News numbered? Three big reasons why the question is being asked:

I’m not going to argue that there haven’t been some damaging leaks to come out of NBC and I’m especially not going to argue that NBC’s handling of the Gregory termination was not a Charlie Foxtrot.

But damaging leaks sprung up all over NBC during the Ann Curry fiasco, another personel change that NBC botched badly, but I don’t recall Concha calling Steve Capus’ tenure “tumultuous”.

More to the point, this last leak can’t be laid at NBC’s doorstep. It came from elsewhere. So NBC News didn’t shoot itself in the foot by leaking the Stewart story just weeks after Todd took over MTP. NBC was shot at by someone from outside the network.

The evidence for an outside shot fired at 30 Rock was right there for all to see, if you knew what to look for.

Exhibit A: The author of the story was Gabriel Sherman.

Exhibit B: What major story did Sherman just write about just a few days earlier? CNN and Jeff Zucker.

Timing is everything. In this case two stories on Zucker back to back, stories that were done with Zucker’s co-operation, followed immediately by a story on Meet The Press, occurred too closely together to be dismissed as a mere coincidence. It’s a mistake that even seasoned media writers sometimes make thinking they’ve covered their tracks without realizing that some of us are on the lookout for red flags like that.

Jeff Zucker is plugged in. He knows everyone in the biz, associations built up over decades rising up NBC’s corporate ranks. Agents talk…they talk a lot more than the outsiders looking in on this industry realize.

The biggest secret about the news business is how much of it has never been publicly disclosed. The amount of history that’s been publicly disseminated by media writers is eclipsed by the amount of history that they know but have never revealed for one reason or another.

The leaker of the Stewart story definitely has ties to NBC. He just doesn’t work there any more.

The question Concha should be asking is why Jeff Zucker decided to leak the Stewart story to Sherman. What was his motivation? What does he gain?

More on CNN…

Posted in CNN on October 7, 2014 by icn2

New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman pens a follow up piece on this CNN story from a couple of days ago. It’s supposed to be about the cuts that are coming but the parts that got my attention where apparent leftovers from his Sunday story which got cut out…

But the cuts are also a reminder that Zucker doesn’t have the free reign he enjoyed as CEO of NBC Universal. CNN, after all, is only a division of Turner Broadcasting, which in turn is a division of Time Warner. For a man who used to be the boss, having to answer to a boss has been disorienting. Last year, for instance, Zucker wanted to bring on Bewkes’s communications chief, Gary Ginsberg, as a deputy, but then-Turner CEO Phil Kent resisted the idea. This winter, Turner president David Levy forced out longtime CNN advertising executive Greg D’Alba against Zucker’s wishes. Levy called Zucker only after he had told D’Alba of the decision, which angered Zucker.

These tensions with Turner executives have led to speculation that Zucker could be a rival with Levy for the Turner CEO job. When I asked Zucker about it, he flatly dismissed the notion. “Everybody can’t accept that I just want to run CNN,” he said. “I don’t know how to disprove it to people. Really, I’m doing exactly the job I want to do. I’ve done that other job. This is more fun. And incredibly challenging.”

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.

Press Releases: 10/06/14

Posted in Press Releases on October 6, 2014 by icn2

CNN (1), Al Jazeera America (1)

CNN

CNN HOSTS JOURNEY TO FIND THEIR “ROOTS”

“ROOTS: OUR JOURNEYS HOME” kicks off Sunday, October 12th, with a two-hour primetime special airing Monday, October 20th at 9 pm ET

Storytelling is at the core of what CNN does, and in a week-long series beginning Sunday, October 12th, thirteen of the network’s prominent hosts and anchors set out on a journey to find their ROOTS. A project one-year in the making, these journalists embark on an emotional journey across continents as they discover never-before-known details of their family histories.
Continue reading

Free for All: 10/06/14

Posted in Free For All on October 6, 2014 by icn2

What’s on your mind?

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.

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