CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker spoke with the South China Morning Post.
“I’ve been here for about 18 months and I think I inherited a company with a long proud tradition, with an iconic brand, that had gotten a little unsure of itself, especially in the US, in the partisan cable news wars in the US,” Zucker said.
“I think we’ve given the place a little bit more confidence and been a little bit more assertive. I think that we’ve shown a tremendous commitment to the roots of CNN in covering major breaking news around the world.”
Confidence is not something the former NBC Universal chief executive lacks. At 49, he is one of the youngest and fastest-rising executives in the television industry. At just 26 he was named executive producer of NBC’s Today show, one of America’s most-watched daily morning news programmes.
“I think that companies take on the tone and tenor of their leadership and I think that as people got to see me and know me they know that I never back down from a fight,” he said. “I think that too often CNN had become too afraid to punch back to its critics and I’m never willing to sit back and let people take shots at CNN.”
He may not be willing to let them “take shots at CNN,” but he’s done nothing to dissuade them. Instead…he’s given them things to take shots at.
And then he mention CNN’s success (despite the numerous layoffs)…
Since the announcement, the rebuilt staff confidence he talks proudly of has wavered as employees wait to hear who will be let go.
“Let me say this, it’s been an incredibly successful year both financially and journalistically for CNN,” Zucker said. “But having said that, like every media company in the world as we go through the digital transformation, we have to look at doing things differently and reallocating resources into areas of growth, which often include digital.
“Change is always uncomfortable. Change always affects morale to some degree, but when you come out the other side of it, hopefully you’re an even stronger company than when you were going in.”
The company says digital operations and international newsgathering, encompassing a strong commitment to Asia, are its highest growth areas.
It is evident that they are growing their international presence, as exhibited by the launch of CNNMoney International.
Although the cutbacks are expected to be spread across all the places CNN operates in, Zucker said its commitment to Asia remained strong.
“I don’t see that changing in any way,” he said. “I think you’d be hard pressed to find any TV organisation that has two correspondents in HK, one in Seoul, one in Tokyo, one in Beijing, India and Pakistan. I think our level of commitment speaks for itself and is unparalleled, frankly.”
Interestingly… CNN actually has three correspondents based in Hong Kong: Andrew Stevens, Anna Coren, and Ivan Watson (who recently transferred to HK). They also have anchor Kristi Lu Stout, as well.
Manisha Tank also seems to be back in Hong Kong for CNN, but she’s only a freelancer.
(H/t Inside Cable News)